Easing job jitters within the digital revolution


The world’s fourth industrial revolution is ushering in large shifts within the office. © demaerre, iStock.com

Professor Steven Dhondt has a reassurance of kinds for folks within the EU fearful about shedding their jobs to automation: loosen up.

Dhondt, an knowledgeable in work and organisational change on the Catholic University Leuven in Belgium, has studied the impression of expertise on jobs for the previous 4 a long time. Fresh from main an EU analysis challenge on the problem, he stresses alternatives moderately than threats.

Right imaginative and prescient

‘We need to develop new business practices and welfare support but, with the right vision, we shouldn’t see expertise as a risk,’ Dhondt mentioned. ‘Rather, we should use it to shape the future and create new jobs.’

The speedy and accelerating advance in digital applied sciences throughout the board is considered the world’s fourth industrial revolution, ushering in basic shifts in how folks dwell and work.

If the primary industrial revolution was powered by steam, the second by electrical energy and the third by electronics, the newest will likely be remembered for automation, robotics and synthetic intelligence, or AI. It’s often known as “Industry 4.0”.

‘Whether it was the Luddite movement in the 1800s through the introduction of automatic spinning machines in the wool industry or concerns about AI today, questions about technology’s impression on jobs actually replicate wider ones about employment practices and the labour market,’ mentioned Dhondt.

He can be a senior scientist at a Netherlands-based impartial analysis organisation referred to as TNO.

The EU challenge that Dhondt led explored how companies and welfare techniques may higher adapt to help staff within the face of technological modifications. The initiative, referred to as Beyond4.0, started in January 2019 and wrapped up in June 2023.

While the emergence of self-driving automobiles and AI-assisted robots holds large potential for financial development and social progress, additionally they sound alarm bells.

More than 70% of EU residents concern that new applied sciences will “steal” folks’s jobs, in line with a 2019 evaluation by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training.

Local successes

The Beyond4.0 researchers studied companies throughout Europe which have taken proactive and sensible steps to empower workers.

“We shouldn’t see technology as a threat – rather we should use it to shape the future and create new jobs.”

– Professor Steven Dhondt, BEYOND4.0

One instance is a family-run Dutch glass firm referred to as Metaglas, which determined that staying aggressive within the face of technological modifications required investing extra in its personal workforce.

Metaglas provided staff better openness with administration and a louder voice on the corporate’s course and product growth.

The transfer, which the corporate named “MetaWay”, has helped it retain staff whereas turning a revenue that’s being reinvested within the workforce, in line with Dhondt.

He mentioned the instance exhibits the significance within the enterprise world of managers’ method to the entire concern.

‘The technology can be an enabler, not a threat, but the decision about that lies with management in organisations,’ Dhondt mentioned. ‘If management uses technology to downgrade the quality of jobs, then jobs are at risk. If management uses technology to enhance jobs, then you can see workers and organisations learn and improve.’

The Metaglas case has fed right into a “knowledge bank” meant to tell enterprise practices extra broadly.

Dhondt additionally highlighted the significance of areas in Europe the place companies and job trainers be a part of forces to help folks.

BEYOND4.0 studied the case of the Finnish metropolis of Oulu – as soon as a number one outpost of mobile-phone large Nokia. In the 2010s, the demise of Nokia’s handset enterprise threatened Oulu with a “brain drain” as the corporate’s engineers had been laid-off.

But collaboration amongst Nokia, native universities and policymakers helped develop new companies together with digital spin-offs and saved lots of of engineers within the central Finnish area, as soon as a buying and selling centre for wooden tar, timber and salmon.

Some Nokia engineers went to the native hospital to work on digital healthcare providers – “e-health” – whereas others moved to papermaker Stora Enso, in line with Dhondt.

Nowadays there are extra high-tech jobs in Oulu than throughout Nokia’s heyday. The BEYOND4.0 staff held the realm up as a profitable “entrepreneurial ecosystem” that might assist inform insurance policies and practices elsewhere in Europe.

Income help

In circumstances the place folks had been out of labor, the challenge additionally appeared to new types of welfare help.

Dhondt’s Finnish colleagues examined the impression of a two-year trial in Finland of a “universal basic income” – or UBI – and used this to evaluate the feasibility of a unique mannequin referred to as “participation income.”

In the UBI experiment, members every obtained a month-to-month €560 sum, which was paid unconditionally. Although UBI is usually touted as a solution to automation, BEYOND4.0’s analysis of the Finnish trial was that it may weaken the precept of solidarity in society.

The challenge’s participation earnings method requires recipients of monetary help to undertake an exercise deemed helpful to society. This may embrace, for instance, take care of the aged or for kids.

While detailed facets are nonetheless being labored out, the BEYOND4.0 staff mentioned participation earnings with the federal government of Finland and the Finnish parliament has put the concept on the agenda for debate.

Dhondt hopes the challenge’s findings, together with on welfare help, will assist different organisations higher navigate the altering tech panorama.

Employment matchmakers

Another researcher eager to assist folks adapt to technological modifications is Dr Aisling Tuite, a labour-market knowledgeable on the South East Technical University in Ireland.

“We wanted to develop a product that could be as useful for people looking for work as for those supporting them.”

– Dr Aisling Tuite, HECAT

Tuite has checked out how digital applied sciences may help job seekers discover appropriate work.

She coordinated an EU-funded challenge to assist out-of-work folks discover jobs or develop new abilities by a extra open on-line system.

Called HECAT, the challenge ran from February 2020 by July 2023 and introduced collectively researchers from Denmark, France, Ireland, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland.

In latest years, many international locations have introduced in lively labour-market insurance policies that deploy computer-based techniques to profile staff and assist profession counsellors goal folks most in want of assist.

While this sounds extremely focused, Tuite mentioned that in actuality it typically pushes folks into employment that could be unsuitable for them and is creating job-retention troubles.

‘Our current employment systems often fail to get people to the right place – they just move people on,’ she mentioned. ‘What people often need is individualised support or new training. We wanted to develop a product that could be as useful for people looking for work as for those supporting them.’

Ready to run

HECAT’s on-line system combines new vacancies with profession counselling and present labour-market knowledge.

The system was examined throughout the challenge and a beta model is now obtainable by way of My Labour Market and can be utilized in all EU international locations the place knowledge is out there.

It may help folks work out the place there are jobs and the best way to be finest positioned to safe them, in line with Tuite.

In addition to displaying openings by location and high quality, the system gives detailed details about profession alternatives and labour-market developments together with the sorts of jobs on the rise specifically areas and the typical time it takes to discover a place in a selected sector.

Tuite mentioned suggestions from members within the take a look at was constructive.

She recalled one younger feminine job seeker saying it had made her extra assured in exploring new profession paths and one other who mentioned figuring out how lengthy the typical “jobs wait” could be eased the stress of searching.

Looking forward, Tuite hopes the HECAT researchers can exhibit the system in governmental employment-services organisations in quite a few EU international locations over the approaching months. 

‘There is growing interest in this work from across public employment services in the EU and we’re excited,’ she mentioned.

(This article was up to date on 21 September 2023 to incorporate a reference to Steven Dhondt’s function at TNO within the Netherlands)

Research on this article was funded by the EU.

This article was initially revealed in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation journal.

Horizon Magazine
brings you the newest information and options about thought-provoking science and revolutionary analysis tasks funded by the EU.

Horizon Magazine
brings you the newest information and options about thought-provoking science and revolutionary analysis tasks funded by the EU.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here