Published October 2020
Hello Future Thinkers.
Have you been concerned about your career?
‘Job insecurity’ is something we all have. In 2020 it has for many been an extreme source of crippling anxiety. Covid-19 rattled the job market and many people lost work. For others who tried to return to work found that their job had been replaced by some sort of gadget. For example Larry Collins, a 23 year old, who after lock down was told his job at the Carquinez Bridge Toll gates in the San Francisco Bay would use technology instead of people.
Automation is an unstoppable force and inevitable. It is cleaner, safer, works 24 hours, takes no smoke breaks, has less risk, reduces losses and damages, it is more accurate and at the end of the day delivers a service or product to the market at a lesser price for the consumer.
Our South African job market is at a greater risk of ramifications related to Automation and the ripple effects of I4.0. Most human alternative tech solutions threaten the less skilled and lower paid working positions, that point added with global stats which suggest woman and black people are more vulnerable only aggravates the situation for us.
The pandemic has increased the implementation of automation. It is reasonable to assume inequality and social divide within Mzansi will increase as a result of I4.0. In the year 2008 we had our best unemployment percentage of 22%, (which by the way is still not something to brag about) and since then it has continued to worsen.
Covid-19 is a natural disaster that evolved into a social economic one. We must prepare for more of these. The severity and frequency will increase in the coming years. I discuss this topic in my manuscript called ‘Lessons from the Coronavirus’ which is available on Amazon Books. I could write about our social economic challenges for days, but the purpose of this article is to share incite on how to remain employed in the Future World taking automation into consideration.
Automation effects entire industries and not only an individual’s job. Many ‘types’ of businesses will not be around in 5 years’ time. On the other side of the same coin there will be many new industries and jobs to look forward too, most of them are yet to be imagined.
It is helpful to understand the working landscape of South Africa. Starting from the largest sector and making our way to the smallest, the rough order would be:
Manufacturing, mining and transport sectors offer the majority of jobs to South Africans, and they all involve careers which are at substantial risk to I4.0. The obvious conclusion is that hundreds of thousands of people are going to need to find new jobs. The window of change is within the next 15 years or so.
A provincial review of sectors in order of significance are roughly broken down as follows:
It is reasonable to assume the provinces within South Africa to be affected by Automation first would be KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape because their industry sectors include some of the most vulnerable.
Regardless of where you are in the World, roughly 4 out of 10 jobs are at risk. Every country has to move with the times to remain commercially relevant. Each city must assess their sectors, ascertain risk, and prepare the foundation for future business.
By the end of this year there will be over 3 million robots working on jobs humans use to do, and I predict this number is going to grow exponentially. It is such a big trend that there are entire organizations (and peoples jobs for that matter) that have been established and created to monitor the components of I4.0 and Automation, like the International Federation of Robotics, who manage statistics on robot deployments Worldwide. You can easily find articles reporting on both potential job losses and gains. To reference just three example extracts:
Many reports try to appease our concerns by saying technology creates more job opportunities than it takes away. This point may be true (although I am sceptical), but what is not explained well enough is that these new opportunities require skills the current work force simply do not possess. Industry I4.0 is moving at a pace far faster than the Industrial Revolution. The only way to increase your chances of employment is to re-skill yourself or at the very least work in a sector that is less vulnerable.
How do you decide on your future career or type of business?
Based on my research and own evaluation, I created the suggestions listed below as options for a reasonably safe career. It is worth mentioning that in the Future World, which might very well include a minimum income grant, you will still need to toggle between two or three disciplines within your lifetime.
Health, social and wellbeing.
Artists, entertainers and creatives. (Not that the majority of these earn huge sums of money)
Computers, data and devices.
Future Tech and construction.
Onto some of my options to avoid.
There are too many types of jobs to reference in an article. South African people and businesses can take advantage of changes and adapt quicker because unlike older economies we have less legacy structures in place. But before we can, we need to remove red tape hindering progress and free commercial trade.
No one is entitled to a job or a career. It is something we have to work to get and also to maintain. For many, we need to improve the attitude of those employed to increase efficiency in business. Far too many lazy staff still have their jobs because business owners cannot fire them for fear of CCMA damages.
We must take advantage of sectors not yet exploited, many of which relate to natural resources which we ship overseas to be processed only to have to buy back later as a product.
Automation will allow smaller business to compete with larger ones. The Future World will have less mammoth commercial entities, and an extensive larger medium enterprise sector specializing in parts of the supply chain.
We must refocus our attention. Re-training or the re-skilling of yourself or your workforce is the only way to increase the chances of future employment. This will be especially challenging for older people.
In South Africa a lot of energy is consumed by objectives related to addressing the apartheid legacy. One such objective is to redistribute the quota of job positions, especially at senior management levels. Unfortunately this objective appears to be presented in recent months as a means of retribution rather than something good. To the people driving this message, please consider that even if you took away every ‘oppressors’ job and gave it to someone who was oppressed or disadvantaged, we would still have mass unemployment. There are simply not enough jobs or money for that matter. It is also a fact that many of the careers we are squabbling about will not be around in the coming years.
Logic dictates (and therefore Mr Spock) that the only way to reduce the chances of unemployment and tackling inequality is to focus on creating the environment for future business to thrive. This can only be achieved with an open market, designed to accommodate a circular and subscription economy where the state supports innovation. Entrepreneurs are our best hope and we need more of them.
While Automation is a trend which will reshape the working environment, you will always be employable if the task you do adds value or offers a solution to a person. Bots can never replicate empathy and creativity. Focus on what humans do best.
Digital Architect & Scenario Planner.
Everything Trends, Tech, Web, Iot & Strategy.
Author, Consultant & Project Manager.
Published October 2020Read more articles