By 2020, the fourth industrial revolution will transform the way we work, live, and interact.
Many of the jobs involving simple tasks will be replaced by robots, and other, machines. New skills will need to be embraced in order to prepare for the future.
The Future of Jobs report highlights 10 skills needed for the future: complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgement and decision making, service orientation, negotiation and cognitive flexibility.
Why are these skills so important?
Advanced technologies are able to solve problems through instructions, however, high level skills that involve creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence are hard, if not impossible, for technologies to replicate. However skills that are easy to learn are at the risk of being replaced by robots and other technologies and unless employees can learn the skills that are still unique to humans, they risk the possibility of unemployment.
Currently, research in economics is showing that capital income has been growing at a greater rate than labour globally. This means income from machinery and other capital sources represents larger proportions of income for countries than labour.
The decreasing cost of technology has made automation more cost efficient than paying wages, particularly with low-skill jobs and so the replacement of those jobs has increasingly been done. We need to start to ask ourselves, as students, as a society, are we comfortable with the high unemployment rates that will come from replacing low skill workers by future technologies? If high unemployment rates may occur in the future, how will we handle this change on the labour market?
There are some immediate solutions to reduce the risk of unemployment suchas increasing government investment in programs that develop the soft and hard skills currently missing in the workforce. Finally, there's a need for a push to increase familiarity and proficiency with new technology will be necessary for students, as well as increased enrollment in STEM subjects, in order to remain on the favourable side of the new divide.
Michelle Ampadu, Anudeep Sultania, Alafiya Shabir, Liam Wicken and Connor James are Western students in the team of UWO Collaborative Economics Initiative.