As the world continues to evolve and adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), education is no longer the only requirement for success in the workplace.
Skills such as communication, learning, attitude and emotional intelligence have also become important, economist Mike Schüssler said at an Africa Automation Fair breakfast event, which was being held in the lead-up to the conference to be held from June 4 to 6.
He further noted that industrialisation had already helped some countries reduce working hours and increase production.
Schüssler highlighted that people in some countries now had more time for leisure, which, combined with access to better medicine and healthcare, had pushed up average life expectancy.
For example, Japan’s average life expectancy is 84, with many people living past the age of 100 years.
With fewer hours worked, these hours were often worked from home as well. Schüssler remarked that, while the number of people working from home for the majority of the time had declined, the people working at least partly from home had increased.
In Europe, the percentage of people who work at least partly from home has increased from 17.5% to 22.9% over the past 27 years.
Schüssler questioned what these major trends meant for the future of work.
In terms of the longer life expectancy, people would need to plan better for their retirement. “Within the next two decades, the retirement age will be increased in most of the world.”
Further, he said poverty would be relative rather than absolute for all but a small part of the world.
In terms of labour, Schüssler explained that in Japan there were 1 240 industrial robots installed per 10 000 automotive employees. By 2018, there were 2.1-million industrial robots installed around the world – mainly in automotive, computer and mobile manufacturing.
Applications for industrial robots include welding, painting, assembly, pick and place for printed circuit boards, packaging and labelling, palletising, production inspection and testing; all completed with high endurance, speed and precision.
In South Africa, fewer than 10 000 industrial robots have been deployed, mainly in the automotive and packaging industries.
To attract greater investment in South African automation, the country would first need a stable power supply, as well as more certainty and skilled staff, said Schüssler, adding that automation had trickled into the mining and agricultural sectors.
He added that South Africa was good at adapting to and learning about technology, but was hardly innovative, and that this was coupled with a decline in productivity.
In South Africa, the percentage of people working in production had declined from 26% in 2001 to 19.4% in 2018. Schüssler said this trend would continue in a low-growth economy, in addition to the effects of automation and robots replacing people.
Moreover, Schüssler believed the 4IR was not so much an industrial revolution, as it was a service revolution.
Much of the infrastructure necessary for smart software and artificial intelligence had already been built, he said.
“[4IR] is not just industry, it is also how you sell things and how you transport things.”
Schüssler noted that the world economy was worth about $85-trillion, of which digital exports, such as e-books, movies and music, were valued at nearly $2.7-trillion. “Is this industry, or is this service?”