I have reviewed a number of publications that have been done within this topic, the more I read, the more worrisome I become on how the landscape and overall complexion of the workplace structure we have been used to will be grossly be invaded and replaced with a whole new system which we are yet to fully understand or even know under which names they will come. This has been perceived globally as capable of altering the whole concept of decent work as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
From historical studies, it has become obvious that every 100 years gives birth to a new industrial revolution and each industrial revolution comes with its own changes and peculiarities to the workplace structure, work patterns with different levels of impact on employee’s health, safety and wellbeing. From the year 1700 to the year 2000, we all experienced 3 industrial revolutions that came with their own changes in the world of work but the year 2000 – 2100 which has been referred to as the 4th Industrial Revolution has been characterized with so much discussions based on the use of technology, robotic science, artificial intelligence, cyber operations and many more. This is the new collective concern.
The key drivers of the future of work are:
· Climate Change
These will bring forth a big change in the global dynamics of work processes and techniques which will affect the worker, the work and the workplace. The first thing within the cycle of change in the new world work-order will be characterized with vulnerability of certain kinds of jobs, mostly routine jobs that are not cognitive based. According to the survey of Deloitte with MIT, “70% of business leaders believe they need a new mix of talents and skills in the future of work”. So, the earlier we all realize the need to acquire new sets of skills, competencies and qualifications, the better our copping capabilities within the new work space, this is called “Future Proofing” your job. According to Fray and Osborne of Oxford Martin School, “Technology and workplace automation will bring 57% of jobs globally under high level of vulnerability”, what this means is that any job that can be automated may have no place for a human being but their robot counterparts, in the words of Richard Baldwin, “there will be a shift of job from human hands to human heads”. Surprisingly, data shows that over the past 10 years, there has been relatively very little growth in a number of routine jobs when compared to the non-routine jobs, these jobs might all be replaced with technology in the future of work. Technology will take away the word “Decency” from decent jobs, outsourcing without a proper employment contract with good coverage and social protection will characterize this new work age. Another item that will be so evident is the presence of “Free Agent Jobs” working multiple jobs for lower pay and working beyond the traditional retirement age. It has been estimated that by 2020, workers from their teens to their 70s or beyond maybe working side by side, dramatically altering the social fabrics of workplace traditional approach. This brings to mind the issue of change in demography and ageing workforce. In Europe today, 35% of those who go to work are neither employees nor work full time, they all mostly free agents on part time.
There exists the growing concern of “Job Apocalypse” where robots will take over the jobs ordinarily done by human, there is going to be a high level of job loss for those who are mostly middle men and those who are not prepared for the future of work. We will record a high level of switching occupation for those who were able to subject themselves to learning new skills. In all these, a number of concerns are also being raised on the growing challenge to train people of the jobs of today for the jobs of tomorrow. According to Mckinsey in his publication - Jobs lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transition in Time of Automation “75 million to 375 million people may need to switch occupation by 2030 due to automation”.
When the world was smaller, we had less information to deal with than we have today through globalization. The work of Stevenson Farmer, published in Deloitte Workplace and Mental Health Review, it was stated that 25 years ago, we process less information in one year, than we are currently processing in one day. Algorithms, big data are a number of key areas that will contribute to mental health burden among workers in the future of work. As much as technology increases the flexibility of work, it also elevates the level of stress in workplaces. Collaboration among global teams, this means people are working across different time zones creating intrusions on evenings and even weekends leading to mental drain and rest time disruptions. Workers are bound to suffer loneliness and alienation due to loss of traditional safety nets, there will be growing need to address work-family balance and increased threat to workers’ health. The Spanish siesta and the 35 hours French work week are currently under threat by technology and globalization.
The growing demand on the need to work round the clock will become so imminent, it is important to take into cognisance that humans cannot work at same frequency and duration as robots. It is suspected that employers will make demand on making workers stay longer hours at work disregarding the 40 hours a weekly work schedule as recommended and advocated by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is sad to know, when robots take over, someone has to be their slaves.
As many jobs go under global threats by robots, there will also be the growing apprehension among employees on job insecurity, it has been documented by some scholars that Robot will not stop at taking over routine jobs rather they will keep advancing into management and senior management positions as technology advances further. According to Martin Ford in his book – The Rise of the Machines “The robots have not just landed in the workplace – they are expanding skills, moving up the corporate ladder, showing awesome productivity and retention rates and increasingly shoving aside their human counterparts. One multi – tasker robot, from Momentum Machines can make a gourmet of hamburger in 10 seconds and could soon replace an entire McDonalds crew”. This rather sounds so scaring.
So, it is so obvious that the level of job displacement through technology and robotic science could be more than we had anticipated. Currently, traditional secretaries are being replaced by voice mail, sales people and customer service representatives are being replaced by websites and as artificial intelligence improves, drivers are being replaced by electric cars that are driverless. Even dispatch riders have drones to contend with. In the early days of publishing, Lithographers were very important in the publishing industry but at the advent of computers that can highlight wrong spellings and make corrections, Lithography profession became a victim of that technological advancement. That profession today has gone into extinction just like the draughtsmen in building industry who were displaced by auto card designs. In a global world we live in today, you do not need to have your materials filed and saved in your office or country, you look for where it is less expensive using cloud technology.
Japan, in the early 80s was the major robotic science country in the world but the government’s policy was, create technology to do the work but human beings must be retained and ensure there are no job lose. It is obvious this will obviously not be the global work policy in 2030 “Robot Took My Job” might be the cry of many employees who will be affected by the robotic apocalypse.
In today’s world, Honda, the makers of ASIMO Robots are already waiting to deploy robots to coffee shops and eateries to take over jobs hitherto done by humans. Yaskawa, makers of Motoman Robots are already positioned with robots that are capable of making burgers and other confectioneries, these all will lead to mass retrenchment (job apocalypse) in these sets of sectors that have huge work population.
During the full automation or robotization of workplaces, there will be increasing use of energy, organizations will have the need to power their offices 24/7 and most times with the light on and machines running continuously, this will further contribute to global warming and become counterproductive towards the objective and overall goal of climate change programs.
When management of the workplace and work pace becomes the responsibility of robots, they will run employees out of steam because the reverse becomes the case. In the world-of-work we had, men were the ones driving the machines but in the future of work, machines are the ones to drive men and this will leave us all with a very high burden of Occupational health burden. In the world-of-work we had, there were blood on the milling floors but the future of work will be so injurious to man and no blood will be seen. Mental health illness is not an open wound that can be sutured or dressed with plasters, it hurts and slowly torments these employees beyond what anyone can imagine. This is the future of work.
I was watching a video on Youtube channel titled “Detroit Become Human”, there was a robot called Chloe that was being interviewed and was very articulate in answering all questions asked. But amazingly, she gave credit to the intelligence of the humans who designed her and one thing was important in her response, she said “they have something which I can never have” and the interviewer said, what is that? Chloe said, a soul. The point I want to draw from here is that it takes compassion to manage people properly and taking into consideration their peculiarities and differences, this is what robot may not be able to do when they invade the workplace. The Health, Safety and Wellbeing of workers will be adversely affected.
I am a Vision Zero profiled advocate, each time I look at the future of work, the question I ask myself is where is Safety, Health and Wellbeing? How will these trio look like in the future of work?
In my next publication, I will be looking at “Vision Zero and The Future of Work”, I am sure you wouldn’t want to miss this.