Sep 24, 2017 | By David

We all know the benefits that 3D printing is bringing to society, as seemingly every sector is now making use of the technology to boost productivity and pioneer new solutions to a huge range of problems. From aerospace engineers to fashion consumers to cancer patients, everyone seems to be winning as 3D printing leads the new digital revolution. But what effect is this having on more traditional industrial methods, and the jobs and livelihoods that they have created? A recent conference held in Tallin, Estonia, sought to examine this issue and see what the future of work might be.

Estonia has one of the lowest national unemployment rates in the world, with only 7 percent of the population currently out of work. The relatively small, young country has been able to effectively adapt its social infrastructure, economy, and labour market to the ongoing changes that 3D printing technology and other forms of industrial digitalization are bringing about. However, a majority of the other nations in the E.U, even the more prosperous ones, are much less well equipped to cope with the so-called Industry 4.0, and this is reason to be concerned for the future. Artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things and 3D printing are all threats to employment stability in one way or another, as they are making many jobs much less necessary or valuable, and in some cases entirely obsolete.

E.U representative and major figures from the business world met in Tallin with the principal aim of determining whether current social security systems were up to the task of supporting people affected by the ongoing digitally-influenced evolution of the world of work, and what changes were needed if not. No consensus was reached on what the future models of social security need to be, but they could all definitely agree on one thing – the nature of work is changing.

Any ex-factory employee who was replaced by a machine at any point in the last half-century could probably have told us that, and they wouldn’t have got a free trip to Tallinn for their troubles either. But is this ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ really an entirely different beast to the previous three?

Members of the conference seemed to agree that the rate at which the world of work is now changing is unprecedented, and this is having a significant impact on society at large. "The rapid transformation of labor is undoubtedly placing many countries under pressure," said Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labor Organization (ILO), adding that the polarization of employment and the growth of inequalities contributes to the uncertainty and fear of citizens. Could the recent rise in inequality, populism, protectionism and general global anxiety all be attributed to the humble 3D printer?

Michel Servoz, Director-General for Employment at the European Commission, felt that education was the key to keeping people employed, with many skills being possible to pick up for even older generations, provided the right tools and schemes are in place to help them. He also identified a serious inequality within many member states, with around 70 million Europeans needing to be educated to make up the skills gap.

Not everyone thought that the digitialization of industry was a negative development, even for the basic employment rate. Jacques Bughin, director of the McKinsey Global Institute, believes that the digital age will generate more jobs than it will remove, with a net increase of 0.9%. He argues that governments, corporations and businesses should embrace the changes wholeheartedly.

The vast majority of attendees did believe that digitalization of the economy will get rid of more jobs than it creates, with around 10 percent of positions predicted to be made entirely obsolete. As the example of Estonia shows, however, this is not necessarily a reason to panic. Social security measures have maintained a robust employment market in the past, and they have the potential to do so again, but governments will need to act fast.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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