When it comes to economics, what are the fundamental skills that students of the subject need to have? Is it cramming a few theories or being good at complex jargon? No. The answer is critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are in effect, the fundamental skill set requirements of the future. Machine learning, Government budgetary optimization or identifying new supply-demand metrics post the age of automation, economics and economists will be required everywhere. However, the subject needs to be re-imagined in order for its students to be future-ready.
The evolution of Classical economics has slowed down considerably over the last hundred years. In fact, the subject still continues to use metrics, theories, analogies and statistical analyses that evolved in a completely different socio-political and industrial atmosphere than the one existing today. Climate change, for instance, is one of the biggest considerations for any business, industry or government before taking a decision on industrial expansion or resource allocation. Even 50 years back however, little thought was given to the same. Similarly, consumer empowerment, the rise of social media, e-commerce, there are a variety of factors driving the global ecosphere today which hardly find any place in the economics taught at schools and colleges.
However, students of economics still find a wide variety of avenues to get employed in, thanks to the diverse nature of the subject. From Wall Street to Data Analytics or policy decision making in think-tank bodies and government agencies, an economics student is still marketable in a digital-first world where many jobs are becoming extinct while others are evolving. Being the perfect amalgamation between studying human behavior and quantitative analysis of the world around us, economics touches various dimensions, thus offering a myriad of opportunities.
However, a little re-imagination of the subject is needed in order to make it relevant. Economists need to formulate new ways of studying the world by factoring in the new variables. A gradual shift from measures such as GDP, GNP, etc. is needed to cater to the collective global consciousness that is developing fast. The impact of new concepts such as machine learning, blockchain etc. on the way modern business functions can be measured by economists, but only through the perspective of fresh methods.
One of the most important aspects of the future will be to quantifiably measure the human emotional satisfaction quotient. We are moving towards a world where governments would need to incorporate measure such as the Gross Happiness Index and evaluate the psychological position of its citizens in order to ensure a society that functions well. The macro measures are gradually turning out to be world centric rather than any particular country. Global trade, global health-care, global agriculture, these huge platforms would require analysis from a perspective that understands the needs of the individual as well as the collective. Even urban-planning or determining the extent of enterprise automation involves opportunities for the students of economics. Possessed with the crucial skill sets that are necessary to understand the world around them, students of economics just need a quick ‘reboot’ of the subject’s current academic nature to become more productive for the future of humanity.
I am the Associate Professor and Faculty Dean at the Meghnad Desai Academy of Economics (MDAE), India’s top institute for postgraduate Economics education. I handle all academic matters, including teaching, research, faculty oversight, curriculum design, and assists in the institution’s admissions and placement processes. With over a decade of experience in teaching Economics, I am also a prolific writer in both Economics and interdisciplinary subjects, with his works appearing in a wide variety of global peer-reviewed journal.