Economy, Science-Technology

Digitalization to affect future workforce

Digitalization in energy, mining and manufacturing will have negative impact on workforce, IndustriAll senior officials say

Digitalization to affect future workforce Robot waiters are seen working at a robot restaurant in Kunshan, China on May 22, 2016. The restaurant has a total of 10 robots in heights of 1.2 meters. Each robot costs 50,000 yuan and all used for delivery and cooking. (Zhong Zhenbin - Anadolu Agency)


Advancements in technology in the energy, mining and manufacturing sectors that replace human employment is worrying for the future of the workforce, IndustriAll Global Union president said on Monday.

Digitalization in energy, mining and the manufacturing sectors are seeing the development of systems, robots, artificial intelligence, automated driving vehicles and electric mobility, which pose a threat to jobs, Valter Sanches, the general secretary of IndustriAll Global Union told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

"The evolution of IT systems, the internet and portable technologies in industry and their impact on the workforce is a concern for unions like us because many sectors will see jobs disappear," Sanches said.

“The question is how many jobs will arise instead of the one that is disappearing?" he added.

The transition to a digital-based workforce, retraining, and policies to support a smooth transition to this new working environment will be needed, he said.

Sanches said that various forecasts predict that in the near future, five million industrial jobs will disappear by 2020, a figure which is of concern to the union. 

"We should have the right transition for the industry, that’s our challenge at the moment," he said.

The fourth industrial revolution, known as Industry 4.0, offers technology and digital-based working conditions, which may have negative effects on the workforce in the near future. The Industry 4.0 approach is the new production concept of the future and reflects the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies.

“Industries in the European Union, Japan and North America, and most of the workers in a supply chain must be trained for Industry 4.0 conditions,” he said.

According to a recent World Economic Forum report entitled The Future of Jobs Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, current trends in different sectors could lead to a net employment loss of more than 5.1 million jobs lost to disruptive labor market changes over the period between 2015 and 2020, with a total loss of 7.1 million jobs.

Citing Australia and Canada as examples, Sanches said these countries have seen a small but significant transition in the mining sector.

 “In Australia and Canada, where they were using coal mining, they abandoned it because it is a problematic industry and bad for the environment.  So we are working with the governments in these places to make the transition. We believe workers in these sectors should be used in different sectors,” he said.

 He also said that industrial policies should protect workers and include provisions for retraining, allow for adaption to a new working environment and conditions, and promote job generation.  

Luc Triangle, the European general secretary of IndustriALL Trade Union, said that politicians and the public need to be more aware of the social agenda linked to digitalization.

He emphasized that Europe will need 800,000 jobs by 2020, but through digitalization, 15 to 20 million jobs are set to be lost in the longer term.

"People say we need to create new jobs, but the number of jobs that will be lost (through digitalization) is much higher. That means that digitalization will bring a lot of new debates on the table," he underlined, adding that in Europe, this subject is being heavily discussed.

"First of all what we see in the Europe is inequality in jobs. Not every country in Europe has the same level of working conditions and are at the same level for implementing digitalization in industry," he said, adding that the transition in the production chain will ultimately affect how products are made. 

Sweden and Finland consider solutions

Triangle said that countries, including Sweden and Finland, are working on solutions to make the transition to digitalization safely. 

Sweden is considering lowering working hours while Finland is seeking solutions by running a trial in which a basic income will be given to ascertain if the change in consumer habits with this lower income is sustainable. 

Triangle asserted that the crux of the problem is in solving how to share out and redistribute work with the possibility of having less work for the same number of people. As a result, the probability of reducing working hours in Europe will be put back on the table for discussion.

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