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There’s a global STEM crisis, but can freelancing fix it?

Matt Barrie thinks freelancers could help the global STEM crisis. Source: Supplied

Global fertility rates are dropping below the replacement rate, and according to Freelancer.com’s CEO Matt Barrie, there’s a mass exodus heading for the global workforce.

Barrie told Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit on Thursday that by 2050, Germany will lose around 15 per cent of its working population, Italy and Korea are set to lose 20 per cent and Japan is set to lose as much as 40 per cent.

And with artificial intelligence set to affect 11 per cent of jobs, Barrie says education needs to step up and address the global STEM [science, technology, engineering, maths] crisis to keep up.

“It’s more important in America to buy a house or car than to educate kids,” Barrie said. “Now, Australia does spend a fair bit of money on education… but the issue is in terms of where that money’s going.”

Computer science studies losing popularity

Looking at the last decade, the number of students enrolled in computer science was down 35 per cent, Barrie said.

“It’s like computer science is a train wreck.”

“We talk about artificial intelligence and how 11 per cent of jobs in this country are going to be affected by AI - and it’s down 35 per cent in the last decade.”

“We’ve produced 435 graduates for an industry that’s going to revolutionise the world.”

And there’s a similar situation in the US, Barrie said.

“Despite losing half a million graduates a year in STEM, foreigners are being educated, and many of them are going back home again.”

There are many professionals in the developing world

While domestic students aren’t keeping up with computer science, Barrie said there are many professionals in the developing world and emerging markets.

“About 10 per cent of the 3.7 billion people in emerging markets actually have a tertiary degree - 22 per cent of the Philippines’ population now has a tertiary degree, which is the same as Australia,” Barrie said.

Freelancers can help the global STEM crisis

Growing businesses and conventional ways could be tough, Barrie said. But corporates can grow capital using cloud labour instead.

“160 million of the world-wide service jobs could theoretically be carried out over the internet, barring any constraints in supply - and we know that there is supply,” Barrie said.

“It’s [cloud labour] a trillion dollar market - it’s 5 billion people that need a better job.”

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