SA millennials fear impact of Industry 4.0 on jobs

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 05 Jun 2019
Some millennials believe Industry 4.0 will make it harder to get a job or change jobs in the future.
Some millennials believe Industry 4.0 will make it harder to get a job or change jobs in the future.

Despite numerous pronouncements that the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) will create new jobs, South African millennials are pessimistic and uneasy about their future career prospects.

This information came to light in the 2019 Deloitte Millennial Survey, which reveals in South Africa, the majority (working and unemployed) believe Industry 4.0 will make it harder to get a job or change jobs in the future.

Now in its eight year, the 2019 Deloitte report is based on the views of 13 416 millennials questioned across 42 countries, including 300 questioned in SA. Millennials included in the study were born between January 1983 and December 1994.

In terms of the survey size, the number of millennials working full- or part-time in SA was 256, while those not working or doing unpaid work was 32.

The study found 58% of millennials working full- or part-time believe 4IR will impact their chances of getting a job or changing a job in the future, while the majority (71%) of those not working or doing unpaid work believe this to be the case.

When asked if they feel they currently have the skills and knowledge that will be required as the working environment is increasingly shaped by Industry 4.0, the survey found this to be true for 88% of the working millennials.

On the other hand, 68% of those unemployed or doing unpaid work feel they currently have the skills and knowledge for the next digital revolution.

“The belief that is held by these millennials is due to fears and perceptions that Industry 4.0 comes with job losses, machines will take over jobs, and they [the millennials] might not be digitally equipped or have the skills required for Industry 4.0,” says Deloitte’s director of human capital, Tumelo Seaketso.

“Industry 4.0 is poised to increase skills gaps across all industries as the nature of jobs that need to be done, and the skills required, are constantly changing. Companies need to invest in upskilling and reskilling their workforce and bring in technology in enabling life-long learning for their employees.”

With Industry 4.0 on the horizon, the digital component of most jobs will accelerate. To future-proof their careers, employees will be required to have different skill sets in areas such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, drone technology, cyber security and the Internet of things.

With this in mind, SA's political leaders, including president Cyril Ramaphosa, have in recent months renewed efforts to make sure the current and future workforce will be able to respond to a demand-led skills development system.

At the World Economic Forum in January, Ramaphosa announced government plans to embark on a massive drive to train young people in digital skills and give them necessary learning tools.

In addition, the South African government has established a 30-member commission to coordinate the development of SA's national response through a comprehensive action plan to deal with 4IR.

Speaking at the induction session of the Presidential Commission on 4IR last month, communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said the first steps to equip a million young people with data science and related skills by 2030 have begun.

Since her appointment, Ndabeni-Abrahams has dedicated attention to all things Industry 4.0, coining the now-popular phrase "building a capable 4IR army". She believes it is important to build capacity for the 4IR by making sure the workforce is ready for the revolution.

Ramaphosa has designated Ndabeni-Abrahams's department to coordinate government's 4IR programme.