In December 2015, the international consultancy agency Price Waterhouse Coopers ( PWC ) published a report in which it predicted that up to 400,000 jobs a year would be lost due to digitisation and robotisation. That trend was reportedly already underway at the time of the research that preceded the report. They had indeed already noted back then that the number of working hours for the highly educated remained the same but the number of working hours for the low-skilled dropped considerably. A majority of the respondents surveyed ( mainly from the financial and business world ) seemed to have confirmed that a lot of jobs " old style " would disappear.
In April 2021, PWC came under the spotlight again when its Dutch division revealed that by 2024 1.6 million jobs would be lost due to robotisation and digitalisation. The so-called " zombie jobs mainly include sales assistants, shelf fillers, catering workers and receptionists.
As might be expected, the mainstream media sniffed out individuals who contradicted this or were all but of the opinion that it will all be no big deal.
"The labour market continues to change. Of course the pandemic will give a boost to digitalisation, but it will not cause an abrupt change. It will be gradual. The idea that suddenly a very large group will be on the streets because of digitalisation is a doomsday scenario that I doubt," said Thijs Bol, a researcher at the University of Amsterdam. In the same breath, however, he contradicted himself when he continued his argument. "When someone loses his job, that person is not immediately unemployed. Many jobs disappear because they are not refilled due to retirement or outflow,Functions automate, making them redundant. But in such a case, people are often asked if they want to leave with a package."
So ... jobs do indeed disappear.
That same year, the WEF announced in a video that by 2025 up to 85 million jobs would be lost due to artificial intelligence.
This is not new. Back in 2016, Klaus Schwab announced that millions of jobs would be lost due to the 4th Industrial Revolution. At the time, he spoke specifically about the banking sector that would be completely automated and all people working in the transport sector ( both taxi drivers and truck drivers ) who would lose their jobs now that all means of transport of the future would be self-driving.
What do we see in daily life ?
More and more bank branches have been shut down in recent years. Thousands of staff members have been laid off or retired early. Banking is now mainly done digitally through home-banking. Loans can now also be applied for digitally. There is no longer any personal contact unless an appointment is booked in a designated branch.
Aldi opened its first fully automated and unmanned supermarket in Utrecht ( NL ) in 2021. That same year, Colruyt Group opened its first fully automated and unmanned OKAY supermarket in Ghent. Recently, a second unmanned OKAY supermarket was opened in Lennik. The supermarkets cited above are only accessible with a QR code created in advance. Purchases can only be taken from the shelves with that QR code and checkout is also done with the QR code. We are slowly but surely moving into an era where purchases will be made using a QR code and it will no longer be possible to pay in cash or with a debit card.
More and more people are buying stuff through online shops. Expensive brands are sold at dumping prices. Why make the effort to go to some city by car or public transportation to browse the shops when it is much easier and cheaper to do so from the comfort of your own armchair?
Large online shops don't employ staff anymore, or at least much less than before. The warehouses are fully automated. As soon as you have placed your order and paid, a basket starts rolling and all the products you ordered are placed in the basket by grab arms.
This is also increasingly true for manufacturers producing goods and products. There too, if not everything is fully automated at least most of it is. Automation is an expensive investment, but the return in the long run is much higher than with manual labour, which might be absent due to illness or leave of absence and is much less efficient.
It is said that anyone who loses their job can retrain. All well and good, but retraining for what? If manual labour is no longer required and is better done by robots, what can the low-skilled unemployed do ? Go back to school ? Learn another profession ? For a 20-30 year old this is still a possibility if they want it, but what about the 40-50-60 year olds who are only entitled to a pension from the age of 67 and can only boast a full pension if they have worked actively for 40 years ? What will happen to them ? An even more pressing question is : how and with what will the unemployment benefits of those still in zombie jobs today be paid ? What will be the future of all those whose jobs are on the rocks ?
Things will not get better in a near future. Billions are being invested in artificial intelligence. Of course, they are doing so for a reason. Technological evolution is so revolutionary and lightning fast that it should be clear to everyone that there is no turning back.