What is the Future of Work?

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

by Krz Lopez-Pareja, Co-founder, Thrive Hive PH (a SlashIgnite venture)

Last 2016, Professor Klaus Schwab, an engineer and economist and the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, wrote an article about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and started with this quote:

“We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another. In its scale, scope and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before”.

But what exactly is the Fourth Industrial Revolution, also called 4IR or Industry 4.0, and how will it affect the way we learn and work?

Industrial revolutions are marked by technological disruptions that bring about massive changes in the way people live. Steam marked the First Industrial Revolution during the 1760s and improved transportation and production. During the 1900s, the Second Industrial Revolution began and machines were powered by electricity which paved the way to mass production. In the 1970s, people learned to communicate to computers through programming and leveraged on this skill to automate processes and systems and develop information technology.

According to the study titled The Future of Work: Regional Perspectives made by the Inter-American Development Bank, 4IR is “marked by rapid technological progress which increases the potential of boosting economic growth and raising prosperity across the world”. The top technological advances which define the Fourth Industrial Revolution are Artificial Intelligence (or what they now call Augmented Intelligence), quantum computers, Biotechnology, Blockchain Technology, 3D printing, and new generation robotics.

Building on the 4IR means progress, higher efficiency and productivity, and structural transformation, especially to the business economy. This kind of progress inevitably means higher profit. However, the shift to using more machines also means that manual, human labor is replaced. What kind of impact would this mean to human labor, then? Work automation and the use of Augmented Intelligence can complement workers, and it can also replace them as well.

Last 2016, the biggest manufacturer of iPhones and Samsung tables in China, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd or Foxconn, has announced that it replaced around 60,000 workers with robots to automate repetitive manufacturing tasks. However, they assured that long-term jobs are safe and the replacements would mean that people would then get to do work that are more value-adding such as research and development and quality control.

If you have tried to call the hotline numbers of big telecommunication providers lately, you may have noticed that phone bots initially assist you with your concerns and for those concerns whose information can be found in their website, they would simply point you there or recite to you a script about billing and payments. If your concerns are not within the options that these phone bots presented, that’s the only time you get to speak with a human customer representative. This is also true when you go to these companies’ websites wherein you are greeted with chat bots usually at the lower right corner of your screen.

Another change that is recently observed here in the Philippines is in the fast food industry. Jollibee and Mcdonald’s have now installed self-service kiosks which lets customers choose their orders by themselves and pay directly through card. The only time you would get to interact with the people in the service counter is if you pay with cash or if your order is ready to go. Other fast food chains would likely follow suit.

In the retail industry, Amazon has pioneered a cashier-less store last 2017. A cashier-less store, as its name suggests, means that you don’t need to wait in line to pay for your grocery. You just simply grab what you need and exit the store seamlessly, but of course with machines and technology monitoring you and charging your card as you leave.

This cashier-less effort may be very expensive to implement at this time, but it is a possibility. And imagine how it can also affect the retail workforce.

How can we cope with these changes coming our way? Can our workforce ever cope? Let’s talk about how we can redefine the workforce in the next article!

Got a minute? Thrive Hive PH is doing a survey of the state of Philippine company cultures' effect on the workforce, answer this survey to let your voice be heard!

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About the Author

Krz is a mental health advocate and is a Masters candidate of Guidance and Counselling, a certified Mental Health First Responder and a member of Postpartum Support International and the Global Shapers Community. With a background in working for corporations and project development, she is currently an independent HR Consultant for MSMEs in Iloilo City.

She is the co-founder of Thrive Hive PH, a SlashIgnite venture.

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