This seems to be one of the hot topics of discussion at most of the business conferences, meet-ups or events today. It gets even more intense if you add some of the trending technology buzz words like Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning etc; to it. The schools, universities academic institutions at large have all started introducing special courses around cloud-computing, IoT (Internet of things), Big Data and Analytics; considering the future of jobs (or WORK) is going to be very different than it is today. However, before we conclude if the technological innovation will drive jobs away; let’s start with thinking about the answers to some of these simple questions
- Did moving from the cart era to steam engines drive away jobs? (Or created more new jobs?)
- What happened to the jobs with the invention of diesel engines, motor cars aeroplanes?
- How did the invention of electric bulb, electric iron, washing machines, computers and then smart phones; affect the job market?
I believe most of us have witnessed how one or more of these technological inventions(or innovations) impacted the job markets and hence we should be able to take a reasonable guess on what would happen to the jobs when we move from the current era to the next level of technological innovation that is supposedly taking us closer to the world of self-driving cars, drones, robot assisted surgeries, AI(Artificial Intelligence) powered Talent Hiring Automation platforms, totally digital banking payments or even crypto; as the new norm.
As per its definition on Wikipedia, Industry 4.0 is a name given to the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing and cognitive computing. Industry 4.0 is commonly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. Hence, the more we delve into this; the better we would be able to appreciate how does each wave of technological innovation impact the job scenario in various markets and the world at large. Though, superficially it may seem to be driving the jobs away; however the reality is much different as while it does make some of the jobs redundant or ways of doing certain things or achieving certain level of productivity obsolete; the technological innovation usually creates a lot many new jobs and more importantly the demand for newer skills-sets in the job markets to operate better more sophisticated machines that usually bring a lot more automation and much higher levels of productivity that are not possible to achieve otherwise. It is this change in the demand for various new skills required for coping up with the technological innovation that disturbs the current equilibrium in the job markets and creates a need for the employees to quickly unlearn the old ways of working, learn the new skill-sets to cope with this change and also makes the employers analyse evaluate the impact of adopting to the new technology in the short as well as long-term from a cost (investment in this new technology) vs ROI (Return on Investment) perspective to set the future course of direction for the organisation. This is the phase when the maximum discussions participation happens including that from the statutory regulatory bodies, agencies and the government to estimate the impact of such change and the best possible ways policies to deal with it.
As the world moves towards rapid technology adoption and machines evolve and acquire more advanced performance capabilities that exceed human capabilities, the adoption of automation will pick up. However, that in no way means that it will drive jobs away. The technical feasibility to explore technology does not automatically translate into the deployment of all technological innovations in the industry or at the workplace and the subsequent loss of jobs. Technical feasibility to adopt any technological innovation is only the first step. Once the technical feasibility is established the next most important aspect to be analysed is the cost of adopting such technological innovations in a day to day job by substituting the cost of the manual labour. If the cost of adopting the technology is significantly higher than the cost of manual labour; it may not be a best case for the business to pursue. Next critical factor to be evaluated is to determine the optimal level of automation thereby striking the best balance between the human contribution (or touch), productivity gains, economies of scale scope, quality of produce and automation of basic routine tasks. Therefore, it is not as straight forward as it appears to be.
The impact to the world of work that these technological innovations bring, do come with significant challenges to policy makers, enterprises as well as the workers and hence will call for a lot more innovative solutions as well before we can think of adopting any such innovation. Some of the ways whereby adopting to these technological innovations can be more conducive are –
- By helping the educational systems as well as the ways of learning new skills evolve and get more aligned towards the needs of the future.
- Increase public-private partnership and private sector collaboration with the academia at large, including but not limiting to incentivising the private sector for their contribution to creating “human capital”; just like for creating any other form of capital.
- Stimulating investments participation towards upliftment of the required infrastructure to support these new ways of learning as well as working. For example – making the internet available to masses.
- Help the working population affected by this technological innovation to upskill transition smoothly into the new jobs that get created.
- Encourage entrepreneurship job creation. Educate people on the future of “gig economy” enable them to adopt to this newer way of making an income. According to a survey, at least 40% of the working population in America will be making a living only out of these “gigs” (and not a so-called full-time job). If it can be done in America, it can be tried adopted to in the other parts of the world too.
So, what must we all be really prepared for? I believe, the answer is to be prepared for “a lot of continuous change”; in the sense that it may not be these same jobs that exist today but there will be a lot of new jobs that shall surface. The skills required by one to be successful in these “jobs of future” would be much different in context as well as scope; than the skills in demand today; and therefore there will be an acute need to get re-skilled and up-skilled for most of the working population, at a fast pace. This might create a hollow in the job market from time to time; making some of the current jobs skills redundant; forcing the affected to quickly embrace learn the new demands of the employers and the “future of work” but it may certainly not be the extreme case Technological Innovations Driving the Jobs Away.
Originally posted at – Higher Education Digest
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