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Industry 4.0 to kill jobs

January 18, 2016

The fourth industrial revolution is already taking shape, seeing the rise of robots and dehumanized smart systems. The World Economic Forum warns Industry 4.0 will likely lead to millions of jobs being lost.

A robot wags its finger
Image: Daimler und Benz Stiftung/Oestergaard

The fourth industrial revolution will "cause widespread disruptions not only to conventional business models, but also to labor markets over the next five years," The World Economic Forum says in a study released ahead of its Davos meeting starting Wednesday.

With electronics and robotics taking over the bulk of work processes in many future-oriented enterprises, smart systems will certainly transform the economy, but will not be smart enough to prevent millions of jobs going down the drain, the study suggests.

It says the transformation will lead "to a net loss of over 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies." Researchers looked at the potential impact of Industry 4.0 on the US, Germany, France, China, Brazil and other nations.

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They see as many as 7.1 million jobs being lost in those countries, mostly in white-collar office and administrative jobs, while 2.1 million jobs will be created in computer engineering and mathematics, the study argues.

"Without urgent and targeted action today to manage the near-term transition and build a workforce with futureproof skills, governments will have to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality, and businesses with a shrinking consumer base," the World Economic Forum says.

It warns that women will be in the firing line of the changes, one of the reasons being that they are underrepresented in the technical fields where new positions are to be created.

hg/jd (AP, Reuters)