The International Labour Organisation, as the putative authority and overseer of labour and industry trends has had frequent occasion to comment on the difficulties with new technological innovations disrupting industry, but has also highlighted the opportunities they present.
Clearly, development of new technologies permit new modes of production. With new modes of production based on such innovations the landscape of work changes significantly and this has lead to disruptions in both blue-collar work and at some of the simpler levels in the sphere of white-collar work.
These disruptions can clearly upset lifestyles and lives and necessitate the need for further retraining. Those with the desire for work-life balance might be able to get it based on retraining and the ability to find a new job in the new market made by the new technologies.
With these disruptions, occasioned particularly when the pace of innovation outpaces society capacity to retrain, the job market collapses in some areas and reduces in some others, but expands in different ways. This entails the creation and sustaining of new industries, which, in turn creates new jobs – however, an insufficiently prepared workforce may not be able to reap the benefits of such advanced. Technology is changing the landscape, and society, as well as authorities, have to gear up to address the challenges and opportunities associated with new technologies.
In a sample of 15 countries, those highly involved in telework and ICT-mobile work (T/ICTM) had a higher level of work intensity. This is regardless of the place that they have been working. However, they have also managed to attain higher levels of work-life balance, which may be considered an overall social good, and therefore one of the more obvious benefits of technological disruption.
Some of the increased work-life balance can come from the reduction in the amount of time necessary to travel to work in addition to the flexibility of one’s own working time. However, this has led to longer work hours and ambiguity between work and personal time.
Some have found that the constant and consistent need to be on call has produced higher levels of stress. The ILO’s research has noted that the new forms of work will intensify within the era of large-scale electronics. So, “working time regulations” will have to adapt to this, which should take advantage of the positives and mitigate the negatives, and ensure that technologies remain a force for good.
Technological innovations have always been profoundly dependent on the use to which they are put, and the manner in which they are utilised. In much the same way that the industrial revolution set human society on a period of rapid advancement, the current leaps and bounds in industrial evolution due to information technology will have significant effects on society. Their impact therefore, will depend largely on how they are received and managed. Ultimately, as the ILO’s research reflects, innovations such as automation represent both opportunities and challenges. What they end up being depends on how they are used by human beings.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.