Automation of jobs is the fallout of technological advancement and it is unidirectional. I believe the decline of population below replacement level is one of the natural drives in favor of automation in the developed world. The issue of automation instantly produces fear of massive job loss resulting in unemployment, poverty, restlessness, and disorder in society. Being a citizen in the have-not divide of the world, incites terrible nervousness thinking about the future of the young generation, and how will they survive? This phenomenon is not new, it has already happened earlier with the introduction of computer in the workplace in the nineties when I was in my college days. Left-leaning ideologues were fighting tooth and nail against the introduction of computers in workplaces.
However that fear has been proved to be wrong, in fact, computerization and digitization have created more employment and prosperity to the world. Now at the beginning of the fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0) (1), when it is transforming from computerization/digitization to automation, the same worries of job loss and unemployment have resurfaced. Experiences of the past indicate that resistance in accepting the industrial revolution has become a futile exercise and caused harm to those establishments who resisted it.
At this backdrop, recent predictions from World Economic Forum (WEF) (2, 3), “machines will create more jobs than they destroy”, will bring back hope and confidence to the youth. The report says that automation would eliminate 85 million jobs by 2025 but expects 97 million new jobs to be created, meaning an overall addition of 12 million jobs. These are the following jobs the WEF expects to be lost and gained to machines by 2025:
A comparative examination of the above table indicates that the job creation and progress of the economy will demand more intelligence and a specific set of skills among job seekers. General attributes of graduates like somewhat capability of reading, writing, arithmetical calculation, and just basic computational skills (handling of MS Word/Powerpoint/Excel etc.) may not be sufficient, though required as default, to fetch in so-called "jobs of tomorrow"(JOTO). As manufacturing is also becoming automated, physical labor will be less required in the working places.
But careful observation of the above table may indicate a couple of trends (a) asymmetry in educational choice and (b) asymmetry in the geographical location of job generation, in the future. The listed ten areas of job creation streamline the requirement of sound knowledge and application of mathematics/statics (analytical) and computational (software, programming, coding etc.) related disciplines. Therefore the demand for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics(STEM) related courses will shoot up and intelligent students will adopt the trend of JOTO as listed above. But the size of the student population of good talents successful in STEM subjects is not too big. Hence, there is a parallel trend among students of major portion, who are not so good in science subjects in school days, and usually will migrate to commerce/business-related discipline. But as the number of jobs from this domain will gradually disappear because of automation, a vacuum might be generated for these mediocre levels of students in finding jobs. This will also reflect in the offering of courses from the educational institutions too.
The second asymmetric development may arise in the cluster of the location of JOTO. Application of automation will be dominant in the industrialized nation, and the educational institutions belonging to those countries are also well equipped to nurture talents as required by JOTO. A combination of these two factors will spawn asymmetry in the geographical location of job provision in the days to come.
To my consideration, the development of these two courses of asymmetries in the future is inevitable. Therefore, severe challenges in job creation will be looming in front of the developing world in continuation for their economic growth in the era of Industry 4.0.
Dr. Susanta Pahari is a Professor of Biochemistry in Skyline University Nigeria. He has a PhD in Biochemistry from University of Calcutta, India.
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