Industry 4.0. and its influence on the labour market

From 8 to 11 February 2018 took place in Lublin, Poland, a seminar about “Industry 4.0. and its influence on the labour market”, organized by Europejski Dom Spotkań – Fundacja Nowy Staw, with the support of EZA and of the Europan Union. The seminar was part of the EZA project coordination about “The impact of the digital world of work on the life of workers and their families – socio-ethical considerations”.

48 representatives of workers’ organisations from Spain, Portugal, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Romania and Poland participated in the seminar.

The most important aspects were: educational dimension – the illustration of differences between countries in terms of implementing industry 4.0; the exchange of views in regards to challenges and threats which are connected with digitalisation and computerisation of industry – especially the influence on the situation of workers; study visits in the most innovative research and production institutions during which participants had a chance to learn computerised working environment. During the seminar participants focused on many crucial aspects of the forthcoming industrial and labour market changes – taking into consideration not only ethical and social dimension but also practical one. Their considerations concerned employment rights, legislation and also the possibility of the vocational and tertiary education reform. The content of the meeting was targeted at preparing recommendations for EZA Board.

Running this seminar was crucial for the changes that currently occur on the labour market.  According to all forecasts and expectations the industry 4.0 revolution will cause creation of totally new professions and will crowd out human resources off the job positions which will be taken over by automated production systems. This process is already happening and it can result in digital exclusion, new demands in terms of professional competences and change of rules and working environment. It is an obligation of workers organisations, representatives of world of science and politics to adapt to ongoing changes, to take care of ethical and legal aspects of industry 4.0, to co-create  inclusive labour market and to educate society. Here raise a need of social dialogue, mutual education and debating on the common approach to forthcoming challenges.

The main discussed topics were the differences between different countries in implementation of industry 4.0, cultural aspects, ethics of human resources with respect to forthcoming changes and automatization of industry as well as the need of legal changes within Labour code and the need of social dialogue with politicians, employees and employers. Another important discussed topic was tertiary, vocational and social education. Participant raised the issue of social stratification between workers and beneficiaries of industry 4.0 implementation.

Seminar results

The first proposal is a need to remove negative social effects of industry 4.0 implementation. Those results are digital exclusion of older people who cannot keep up with development of modern technologies and of withdrawn people who do not use the modern technologies and they do not have access to Internet and basic digital competences. They also have much lower chances to be employed in modern work environment.

The second proposal is the necessity of preparing workers to the changing work conditions and ongoing automatization of production. This will force the workers to acquire totally new competences connected with working with and managing automatized production. A crucial point of this issue is a change in approaching safety and labour standards. We have to think about the change of burden each worker experiences – stress factors, control, sense of security, a trust to software and production devices.

The third proposal is multidimensional promotion of education. It concerns the tertiary level of education which needs to teach advanced digital literacy and ability to use and create the network of things and automatic industry. The vocational level of education is also important and it should provide the help in retraining for workers whose professions were ousted out of market. Finally, it concerns also social education especially when it comes to problems of digital exclusion or precariat.

The forth proposal is a need to create a new way of understanding the employment rights, to create a new tool which will allow for open social dialogue in which trade unionists, workers communities, employers, representatives from the world of business, education and politics should take part in. It is crucial to redefine employment conditions because of the phenomena such as flexible job arrangements, digital and remote work, the blurring of the boundary between home and work, the case of self-employment and other untypical forms of employment which do not let workers to exercise their employment rights.

The most important benefit for the participants is the fact that they could learn about problems connected with implementation of industry 4.0 and also work together on potential solutions and good practices for labour market.  Such mutual education and identification of key challenges and threats which are in front of society will help the representatives of trade unions to tackle successfully all given issues. That will help to promote social dialogue and it will include beneficiaries of industry 4.0 in these conversations and negotiation towards one common legislation tool in form of modern law code. In order to archive this aim we created a short publication which promotes the proposals concerning the role of worker in the industry.