PODCAST | Labour and the 4IR butt heads



The recent threat of strike action by banking sector workers has highlighted that the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is here and is disrupting many industries and how people work in them.


In this edition of Business Day Spotlight our focus is on how to create employment opportunities for South Africans in the face of digital disruption.

Our host Mudiwa Gavaza is joined by Fanie Botha, COO of FIRtech Holdings; Joe Kokela, general secretary of Sasbo, the finance union; and Matthew Parks, parliamentary co-ordinator for Cosatu to discuss this issue that affects many industries and levels of work.

The issue is not how SA protects the status quo in labour markets but rather how to make sure everyone is included economically in a digital future.

The discussion begins with Botha and Kokela giving a history and geography lesson about the shifts that have taken place from one industrial revolution to another.

Botha, who has done research on the topic, says SA has an opportunity to take advantage of the 4IR in a similar fashion to a number of Asian countries, which largely skipped the second industrial revolution but ended up dominating the third, to a point that many people have been lifted out of poverty, and the region is now regarded as the factory of the world.

Kokela also draws from lessons in Asia and Scandinavia, saying the problem with SA is that people have, for the most part, chosen to remain in isolation. For the country to come up with solutions that will allow people to have new skills and move up in the value chain, there needs to be cohesion in decision-making between the private sector, government, labour and the subject matter experts, he says.

Parks says the advent of technology threatens the livelihood of many South Africans if the transition is not done properly. Technology could, however, give SA an opportunity to explore different ways of structuring the economy and possibly open up new industries, he says.

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