Extensive job loss is a reality the world must prepare for as businesses strive towards increased efficiency and lower cost. This current economic downturn has only just begun, automation and robotics are still at an infancy stage. Unemployment and retrenchment bloodbath will continue to rise as more and more companies are employing fewer humans to get the most done with precision.
Studies shows that 12.1 million manufacturing workers, can now produce at a level that previously would have required 20.9 million workers. Automated workers are not only found in factories. Automation is happening across all sectors: hospitals, banks, retail, mines, law firms, the stock market, restaurants and the list goes on.
According to StatsSA (2018 Survey), “more than 6million South Africans are unemployed and this figures represent only those that are still actively looking for a job not those who’ve already given up. StatsSA shows unemployment has increase to 27.2% in the second quarter of 2018. Black people and young people are still the worst affected. StatsSA says unemployment rate among youths 15-24 years continues to rise and is now at almost 54%. The unemployment rate for young people is more than double that of the 45-50yrs category. Unemployment rate among 25-34yrs is at 33.6% and 35-44yrs is at 21.3%. The Stats reveals that 105.000 jobs were lost in the manufacturing sector, 93.000 in the service sector and 57.000 in the trade sector.”
According to Media Reports, the job-loss bloodbath in the mining sector is intensifying as Impala mine in Rustenburg recently announced cutting its workforce by 13000 employees over the next two years due to enormous loses. Report says only 3 out of 10 impala mines operations are profitable. Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana is also planning to retrench 12600 employees over a period of 3years. AngloGold is planning to retrench 2000 employees. Eskom is also looking at retrenching 15 000 employees as a desperate move to save the state-own utility.
Most of us are only focusing on the statistics (increase in retrenchments and unemployment) without really asking ourselves, why? Why is unemployment and retrenchment on the rise? There are many factors contributing to this but chief among them is technological advancement. Modern economies are going through a fast evolution from the worker driven economy to an automation-driven workplace where a handful of people can perform the work that used to be carried out by hundreds of people. Due to technological advancement, productivity is at record levels and innovation has never been faster. As businesses strive towards increased efficiency and lower cost, extensive job loss is a reality the world must prepare for.
A research by Accenture reveals that 5.7 million jobs are at risk of total automation in South Africa, that’s 35 percent of all jobs which comes down to one in three jobs. This means machines can perform 75 percent of the activities that make up these jobs.
Unemployment and retrenchment is a reality the world must prepare for. Computerization, artificial intelligence and robotics are on the increase as more companies’ demands them. Automation system are becoming increasingly flexible and intelligent. We’re in the wake of the forth industrial revolution and everything is in the state of constant change. At some point in the not so distant future, nearly every physical task conceivably can be done by robots.
It’s hard to argue against automation when statistics are clearly illustrating its potential. A Chinese factory in Dongguan City replaced 90 percent of its human workforce with machines, and it led to a staggering 250 percent increase in productivity and a significant 80 percent drop in defects.
A report by Citigroup revealed that the downsizing of the bank workforce is about to accelerate as more technology takes over jobs humans used to do. It is predicted 30% of banking jobs are threatened by AI and blockchain. The smartphone revolution has already shifted the e-commerce landscape, along with sophisticated Apps and other technological advances in the financial sector.
Futurist Thomas Frey, predicts a mind bulging future. He says “up to 2 billion jobs will disappear by 2030”, that’s almost 50% of the jobs in the world. The figures are not too far apart from The Economist Report which suggests that “47% of jobs in the global marketplace will be automated by 2034”. Depending on who you’re listening to, these changes can happen anytime between 10 and 20years.
The forecasts for the future of work are quite alarming for a continent like Africa, which is already suffering from a chronically high unemployment rate. We’ve all been programed from childhood to go to school, get a certificate and get a job but this model is flawed and no longer works. We should be vigilant and open minded not to channel the next generation with the same mindset to go to school and get a job. The future is more self-reliant and entrepreneurial. The future will not seem so scary if talent is put to use. The future certainly has the potential to draw more on an individual’s talents/purpose than certificates.
In an era where machines are employable, it goes without saying that the school system is outdated and in urgent need of refurbishment. Graduates have a responsibility to be innovative, creative, and self-reliant. Graduates should be globally and digitally oriented with the mindset to solve problems, contribute to the economy and create their own work. We need new systems of learning for both what to learn, how to learn, how to think creatively and how to prepare for the shift in the new economy paradigm.
An extract from my upcoming book ‘Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted’
By Nicky Verd
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