The 4th industrial revolution

The 4th industrial revolution


Alain E. Roch, MBA

President and CEO

The 4th industrial revolution

After the first revolution with the advent of the steam engine, the second one sparked by electricity, the third one brought about by electronics and robotics, the fourth one arrives at stellar speed with amplitude and impact. Its catalysts include the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data, capable of transforming the economy and disrupting entire systems of production, distribution and consumption.

The World Economic Forum took a closer look at this digital revolution and concludes that “this fourth industrial revolution will bring upon the destruction of millions of jobs, creating profound social instability”. Executive director of Adecco was even more specific when he said: “We must expect the elimination of five million jobs, but at the same time, this revolution will create two million new ones.”

This social and economic mutation drives entire sectors to face the way they operate—their reason for existing—as it is being called to question: transport, hotels, retailers, music, medicine and the press, of course. Dozens of jobs will be flushed away.

Just as the International Labour Organization revealed, unemployment touched 197.1 million people in 2015, a million more than in 2014, 27 million more than before the 2008 crisis. And more bad news keeps coming from Latin America, China and oil-exporting Arab countries. The losers in all this are known: people living in the countryside, large industries, the service sectors and local jobs, especially in emerging markets.

Schools must also reform and the states are committed to making large educational reforms to avoid leaving workers who are threatened by the digital revolution in the dust.

Risks are not limited to unemployment statistics because the collapse of the middle class increases security risks and social unrest. Increasing frustration can lead to a rise in extremism and terrorist intentions.

So where exactly are nestled these jobs of tomorrow? Ironically in the advanced technology sector that will need the qualified manpower to run its new enterprises (robot maintenance, windmills and solar panels, biotechnology lab technicians, businesses focussed on seducing online users, etc…)

Artificial intelligence is also a key factor in this revolution. Those countries with a high level of competition, qualifications and infrastructure will be the ones to benefit. Is Canada one of them?

Without any urgent and targeted actions taken today to manage this transition in the mid-term and to create a workforce equipped with the skills of the future, governments are going to have to face a continuous hike in unemployment and inequalities.

Those who will suffer most are the emerging countries. As we read the constellations that form, it seems clear that the abundance of cheap labour is no longer an advantage, but is quickly becoming a great burden. These countries have invested all in the import of low-level jobs without the infrastructure nor the educational or tax systems to rapidly adapt.