Davos World Economic Forum: are we ready for the “fourth industrial revolution” ?

Employment and Social Affairs

Five million jobs in the world’s leading economic countries could disappear over the next years because of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. This is the great concern that has been highlighted by the World Economic Forum in a report  published ahead of the 2016 Davos Economic Forum, in Switzerland from January 20th  to 23rd. The impact of the technological revolution is the central topic of this report.

The so-called “fourth industrial revolution”, which follows the introduction of steam power, electricity and electronics, will have a huge impact on job markets. The report assesses that 7.1 million jobs in the world’s richest countries could be lost through automation of tasks, but those losses would be partially covered by the creation of 2.1 million new opportunities. Two thirds of jobs will be lost in the administrative sector where machines increasingly ‘ smart ‘ would replace many tasks. The 15 economies covered by the survey represent approximately 65 per cent of the global workforce, including many EU countries as France, Germany, United Kingdom and other like China, Japan, Mexico and United States.

The German economist, Klaus Schwab, introduced the theme of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in a essay published in Foreign Affairs in December 2015. He argues that we are on the onset of a Fourth Industrial Revolution that will fundamentally change the way we work and live in the coming decades. Mayors technological changes are bringing to the digitalization of economic and social with a potentially disruptive impact on conventional business practices and social norms.

The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power and access to knowledge are unlimited: in its sense the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. The potential to connect billions more people to digital networks, improve the efficiency of organizations and manage assets in ways that can potentially undo damage done in previous industrial revolutions.

However there are also significant concerns, as politician and organizations might fail to adapt being unable to regulate new technologies in the right way. The danger is that changes that are already underway will create new security concerns and increase inequality, particularly in its potential to disrupt labor markets. It is important to wonder if  we as Europe and EU citizens are ready to turn  the 4th Industrial Revolution to our advantage. This is a commitment highlighted by the Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Guenther Oettinger, in the framework of the EU strategy and an action plan to support a fair digitalisation of European industry and job market.

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