The fourth wave of the industrial revolution brings forth just as much promise as challenges. Smart technologies have become intertwined with every aspect of human societies, and as far as the business ecosystem is concerned, technology transformation has effectively reshaped modern business practices and interactions. However, as we celebrate the undeniable boon that a technology-driven world has to offer, it is also important not to turn a blind eye to the adverse effects of rapid digitalisation and automation. As far as the labour market is concerned, these technologies have generated major transformations and disruptions. Their use will eventually substitute human labour, which is foreseeable development that has sparked much public concern.

The economy and business landscape cannot thrive with technology alone, it requires a flourishing labour market to work alongside intelligent machines. Learn what it takes to build a strong foundation for sustainable employment in an era of information technology.

Industry 4.0: Embracing the Future of Work

Otherwise known as Industry 4.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the current state of digital expansion across all industries where there is a prevalent adoption of cyber-physical systems like the Internet of Things (IoT) and Internet of Systems (IoS). This new era is marked by four specific technological developments: high-speed mobile Internet, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, big data analytics, and cloud technology. By marrying physical production and operations with smart digital technology, machine learning, and big data, Industry 4.0 can create solid foundations for a more holistic, better connected, and more productive ecosystem for companies, especially those in the manufacturing and supply chain industries.

Beyond revolutionising business operations and business growth trajectory, Industry 4.0 has added another layer of uncertainty and anxiety to the global concern for jobs. The rising concern arose due to the increasing automation and the use of robots displacing demand for human labour. According to a McKinsey report, it has been estimated that AI and automation could displace between 400 million to 800 million individuals by 2030.

Creating Space for Sustainable Employment

Whilst such concerns are not unwarranted, such a reality is not cemented in stone. Throughout all the previous waves of technological revolution, most speculative scenarios of the future back then did not actualise. Even though massive destruction of occupations is likely to happen, Industry 4.0 also comes with rising demand for new jobs and skills that will outpace the number of jobs lost. Moreover, aside from the emergence of new roles, the need for “humanness” will grow in value. As these machines help improve and streamline efficiency and output quality, there will be a natural shift in focus to more complex tasks that would require uniquely human qualities, such as emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and critical thinking.

To ensure that your employees are able to work alongside these machines, a switch of occupational categories and learning new skills are a must. This translates into providing opportunities for employees to broaden the breadth of the skills either through upskilling, retraining, or professional skill conversion programmes. By giving employees access to such resources, you are helping create a supportive work environment that empowers them to keep up with the rapid digital transformations caused by the fourth wave of the industrial revolution. 

To further ensure that sustainable employment can evolve in a rapidly changing technological world, fair and progressive employment practices should be in place. By abiding by the principles of equitable hiring, companies can leverage and invest in a diverse talent pool and create sustainable business development and growth for both their employees and the business.

Taking Steps to Empower Your Workforce

Industry 4.0 will bring waves of changes, creating the foundation for the next industrial revolution. Daunting as it is, employment can still evolve sustainably if companies take steps to support and empower the workforce.

The SBF Sustainable Employment (SE) initiative calls on the Singapore business community to take purposeful action to improve their SE practices in anticipation of emergent trends and future developments. Singapore Business Federation launched this initiative with a report that highlights key recommendations and potential opportunities for businesses to take on to achieve long-term business success and foster a vibrant economy and inclusive society.

Make the pledge to join others in this journey.