OP-ED

4IR and employment

4IR should create employment in services sectors with moderate living standards

Output is the yardstick to measure development of an economy. 

In official terms, it is referred to as gross domestic product (GDP).

Production is the function of land, labor, capital, management.

Later innovation is added to the production function in the form of technological advancement.

Technology sets the production process from one stage to the upper level.

Industrial revolution is itself a movement by technological achievement, undoubtedly.

In the 18th century, the first industrial revolution started by steam power and mechanization of production.

Economy begins creating divisions of owners and employees.

According to communism economic concept, a new class is born. 

In the 19th century, the second industrial revolution began with the discovery of electricity and the assembly line of production.

Third industrial revolution began in the 1970s of last century through partial automation using programmable controls by computers.

Since the introduction of technologies, we are now able to automate an entire production process through machine learning technology without human assistance.

Robots can be cited as programmed sequences without human intervention.

4IR

Now, the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is in progress. 

This is characterized by the application of information and communication technologies to industry.

It builds on the developments of the third industrial revolution.

Production systems having computer technology are expanded by a web network supported by internet technology.

These allow communication with other facilities and the output of information.

This is the step towards production automation.

The networking of all systems leads to production processes by auto-commanded machines, in which production systems, components and people communicate via a network.

4IR has the potential to deliver some incredible advances in factory environments.

Examples include machines which can predict failures and trigger maintenance processes autonomously or self-organized logistics which react to unexpected changes in production.

The automated system has the power to change the way that people work.

4IR can pull individuals into smarter networks, with the potential of more efficient working.

The digitalization of the manufacturing environment allows more flexible methods of getting the right information to the right person at the right time.

The increasing use of digital devices inside factories and out in the field means maintenance professionals can be provided with equipment documentation and service history in time, and at the point of use.

Solution to problems is easily identified without wasting time. 

In short, 4IR is a game-changer, across industrial settings.

The digitalization of manufacturing can change the way that goods are produced and distributed, and how products are serviced and refined on continuous paths.

On that basis, it can truly establish the claim to represent the beginning of the 4IR.

Lack of opportunities to work is unemployment.

It is called that export brings employment and import exports employment.

Technology leads employment as well as unemployment, the concept of ‘survival for the fittest’ works here. 

Luddites

We are well aware of the term Luddite.

This is basically the name of a person who is used to describe people disliking new technology.

But its origins date back to an early 19th century labor movement that railed against the ways that mechanized manufactures and their unskilled laborers undermined the skilled craftsmen of the day. 

Whether technology brings unemployment or not is a question.

It is also blamed that it displaces employment.

Definitely when paper and ink were invented, use of leaves and clay was phased out.

One will come and another will leave.

Now questions come whether Luddite’s movement to retain employment was right or wrong.

There are talks in favor or in disfavor.

Whatever the issue is, people who are displaced face the real music.

Such a situation brings too many when imports eat up employment through cheap foreign products.  

As stated earlier, one is replaced by another.

There is no problem behind the situation since it makes a squired position.

But what is to happen in case of one displacing ten is a matter. 

First industrial revolution started with steam power facilitating the generation of huge output; this changed human lives.

Electricity in the second industrial revolution was a supplement to support production.

Conversion of input contents into output required processing, as electricity was the facilitator of the system.

Skills came into operational activities.

It helped skilled people to move to the upper level of standard of living.

But the revolution required manual work to end the production.

The stage facilitated large scale production, resulting in huge employment.

Technology at this level helps a lot for economic growth.

As such, technology becomes a blessing for economic development with employment.

But the classical saying is always true –"might is right" or "survival for the fittest."

On the other hand, economics can produce but it cannot distribute as required to bring an equitable level among mass people. 

People claim, as per old saying, the land where they live as their own.

If they are asked how they become owners of land, the reply may be: it is their ancestral property, or they buy it from others, or the like.

The origin is that it is acquired by force at different stages.

Mass production needs facility stations including land which goes from the weak to the strong.

End result of the process is that the weak, land owners, become employees of the strong owning industries.

This situational reality in the society is inevitable and the process continuously turns over for a long time.

3IR

As noted earlier, the third industrial revolution brought automation in the production process through computer technology.

This was an era which is in other terms referred to as the machine learning age.

Machine works on the basis of programs set therein.

However, machines need commands which start working automatically without human support.

Displacement of incompatible workers starts with automation.

Employees displaced at an aged level cannot cope up with the changes resulting in miserable situations for them.

Another situation is that automation runs itself for which mass people are not required; many people are displaced by a single person with the help of automation including artificial persons like robots.

Challenges are to people involved in manual functions, displacement is inevitable particularly in private production activities run by capital.

Machines can work by themselves after a one-time command; no commands are required later.

Everything is automated from farming to financing.

Production and services output are run by automated machines.

No human touch is required for production of output.

Economic development is higher than expected due to huge production, with mere employment.

The situation asks a question whether Luddite’s movement is needed to remove unemployment problems.

Huge output due to technological support reduces price.

Benefits go to people having the capacity to buy. Few people are in need to run the production process.

People having no work cannot buy output.

Then how the market will clear the output is a question.

Nothing seems to be worried because the distribution process will consume manpower, employment will move to services sectors.

The service output will clear product markets. But what type of service people will be involved in 4IR?

In case of mass employment in product delivery, operations of outlets, security services, and the like; the result of 4IR will not be fruitful.

In that case, fiscal support will be needed to redistribute output to the "have not" group.

This is not desirable.

Rather 4IR should create employment in services sectors with moderate living standards.

The days are coming for 4IR. National policies need to be fine-tuned to face the challenges.

 

The author works in the development sector and can be reached at [email protected] gmail.com