Digitalisation and its impact on the labour market

A brief definition

The digitization of work should be understood as increasing the proportion of digital data in the activities that make up a job. Much of this data will be a digital representation of real processes and objects (just as a scan is a digital representation of an object under development, such as a document). Let’s take a look at this with an example from the 4CF report “Competencies that weren’t there,” prepared for the Provincial Labor Office in Warsaw.

The digitization of factories makes it possible to reduce the number of foremen and supervisors needed to manage workers on a single shift, thanks to data on the operation of production lines and the behavior of workers, obtained from sensors of temperature, pressure, voltage, but also from smart camera systems.

In the future, this will allow for a further increase in management span, that is, the number of people directly reporting to a single leader. Digitization will provide him with “digital eyes and ears,” without compromising the productivity and job security of his subordinate employees.

Which new technology will get me out of a job?

Today’s most important data transmission and processing technologies, which are also relevant to the labor market, include: communication technologies (network technologies such as the Internet, wireless networks, cellular networks, etc.), ambient data collection (sensorics, speech, handwriting, facial and other image recognition), and data processing and analysis (machine learning, neural networks, artificial intelligence algorithms). Intuitively, it would seem that ICT or artificial intelligence remain in the intangible realm – limited to computers, the Internet or typical mental work.

REMEMBER! Artificial intelligence is gracing not only the so-called intelligentsia, because it is ICT or AI, not the human hand, that increasingly controls machines – including on factory floors or construction sites. And this means that humans doing repetitive, schematic work (including, but not primarily) physical work can feel threatened.

The world in the face of the trend of digitization of work

According to studies, nearly half of the occupations in the United States are at high risk of being automated in the next 20 years. The situation is similar in European Union countries, where nearly 54 percent of occupations are at risk of automation. The values cited in the studies may, of course, be overstated, since usually – and this should be paid special attention to – only the technological possibility of replacing human labor with automation is analyzed, and the economic viability of such a change is ignored, without even mentioning the social consequences.

Competencies of the past and competencies of the future

However, the authors of the studies often emphasize that the threat of automation is not synonymous with the complete disappearance of an occupation from the labor market, but rather involves robots performing a significant part of the activities associated with a given occupation. The occupations most susceptible to automation are those in which the worker performs a very well-defined sequence of repetitive activities. On the other hand, safe from automation are occupations in which cognitive skills are important. These include creativity, problem-solving and creative thinking skills. Social skills are also less susceptible to automation. These are, for example, the ability to listen actively, persuasion, related to the use of emotional intelligence.


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Author: Tomasz Wołowiec, PhD, WSEI university Lublin / Poland

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