Digitisation? Don’t panic!

Fear that jobs will vanish is spreading: critics believe that digitisation will lead to high unemployment. In contrast, economists foresee ‘a transformation with enormous opportunities’. Because demographic change and digitisation are counterparts.

Humanoid robots, artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous vehicles – a massive proliferation of technology is heading our way and with it a major threat of widespread unemployment, warn sociologists in particular. Millions of jobs will be lost around the globe and up to 47 per cent of all professions will be wiped out by AI and its algorithms, according to the fear scenario.

“It makes little sense to think one-dimensionally of human beings and artificial intelligence as opposites,” says Carsten Brinkmann, TERRANUS Supervisory Board Chairman. “As in the past, new technologies are dramatically changing our world. However, this only means that we will once again redesign the future using ‘intelligent’ machines, delegate problems and tasks to them, and emerge stronger from this process. Much of the growth in employment since 1980 has taken place in occupations that were completely unknown back then.” Everyone should understand that change is unsettling and not automatically be ‘biased’, because that does not help us move forward.

Demography or digitisation: Which development has faster impact?

Economists such as Jens Südekum, Professor of International Economics at the University of Düsseldorf, and Gerd Zika from the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) of the Federal Employment Agency in Nuremberg also underline the huge advantages of digitisation, especially in ageing societies such as Germany. According to forecasts, we will run out of workers faster than we will jobs.

Germany currently has a workforce of around 45 million people, which will gradually shrink to 38 million over the next few decades (IAB figures). This downward trend already includes the 200,000 immigrants per year, the increase in women’s employment and longer working lives. If the majority of baby boomers retire from 2020 onwards, demographic change without digitisation will result in a considerable shortage of labour. And so economists and labour market researchers are currently asking themselves which force will be faster: Demography or digitisation? In any case, the two are counterparts – and that’s a good thing.

Care 4.0: Mitigating the enormous shortage of staff, doctors and caregivers

Maybe by 2035 around 1.5 million jobs (IAB) in a fully digitised working environment will not be refilled, but at the same time new areas of activity of roughly the same order of magnitude will emerge: the profession of Big Data Analyst, for example, was completely unknown five years ago.

The demand for qualified people in the IT sector, but above all in the health and care sector, will explode. Today there are already around 35,000 vacancies for nursing staff that cannot be filled, and this number will continue to increase. The Bertelsmann Stiftung predicts a shortfall of up to half a million employees in the care sector in 2030.

At the same time, the need for doctors and other social professions is growing. “Digitisation helps us to mitigate this enormous demographic gap,” explains Carsten Brinkmann. “Age-appropriate assistance systems, for example, enable older people to remain independent in their homes for longer, digital technologies in nursing homes alleviate and take over difficult and administrative tasks, improve communication and create modern, more attractive workplaces.”

Future-oriented education and training, retraining and lateral thinking are necessary to cope with the major changes. “Panic over digitisation is completely out of place, because digital solutions are an important building block for tackling our challenges and demographic change,” says Carsten Brinkmann.

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Carsten Brinkmann

Supervisory Board Chairman

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