February 8, 2018 Yes Institute

Social Safety Nets for the 4th Industrial Revolution

Author: Shashwati Ghosh, Senior Fellow, YES Global Institute

In a very recent move, the World Economic Forum has announced an international expansion of its Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, looking to maximize the technological advances happening across the economies. The move is meant to synchronize developments in all the countries without any time gap. While the step recognises India as the emerging hub for the global market, it is important that we also take cognizance of the aftereffect of the continuous disruption that these technologies will force on the way world does business and trade, communicate and responds.

The reason why fourth industrial revolution is different from the previous three is because of the sheer speed and scope with which it can impact every sphere of mankind. The force of change will be continuous and lesser time will be available to the people to adjust to the changes..or better called disruptions. One of the biggest expected disruptions will be on Jobs.

Not because jobs are going to disappear but the current jobs are going to be replaced with very different sort of jobs, which may not suit most of the workforce. If the adaption level to the emerging job market falls, it will retire a sizeable amount of workforce early leading to a problem of income generation. In countries like India, where un-skilled labourers play a major role, it will be difficult to adjust to the demanding and ever changing jobs scenario. Thus the requirement of Social Safety Net.

The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. The Industrial Revolution 4.0 is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological areas.

The biggest focus will be three fold:

  • Delivering the workforce for the future
  • Getting women in the workplace
  • Individual financial security and the challenges it creates

To contain the effect of the changes, the countries will need separate ministries dealing with social security to people who are in the process of being retrained and  will be joining the workforce. Just like the technologies, the social safety net will probably need to identify, retrain and replace the workers. It will be as much a continuous process of building up labour force as innovation.