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ISLAMABAD: The adoption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) could create 11 percent more jobs, over and beyond business-as-usual (BAU) growth rates in the textile and garment manufacturing industry and 18 percent more jobs in the information technology–business process outsourcing (IT–BPO) industry by 2025, says the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The Bank undertook the study Assessing Implications of Industry 4.0 on Jobs and Skills in High-Growth Industries in Central Asia, which seeks to capture the anticipated transformations in jobs, tasks, and skills, and to outline policy directions to prepare the workforce for future jobs, particularly in the post-covid-19 world.

The report noted that the analysis shows that the adoption of 4IR technologies can bring about quality jobs for workers if strong policies to encourage firms to adopt 4IR and encourage worker re-skilling are implemented.

The adoption of 4IR could create 11 percent more jobs, over and beyond BAU growth rates in the textile and garment manufacturing industry; and 18 percent more jobs in the IT–BPO industry by 2025.

For these gains to be realised, policies must be implemented to encourage firms to adopt 4IR technologies and build awareness of the digital tools available.

It further stated that workers in manual roles are expected to face a higher risk of displacement while job gains are expected in technical roles, with over 70 percent of textile and garment employers expecting the proportion of technical roles to increase by 2025.

This suggests that existing frameworks for the recognition of prior learning would need to be strengthened.

Job gains from 4IR will also largely benefit male workers due to low female workforce participation in the textile and garment manufacturing sector, as one-third of garment workers in Pakistan are female currently. Inclusive 4IR re-skilling policies would need to be adopted to distribute the gains of 4IR more evenly.

Strong re-skilling policies will be needed to realise these job gains and to support workers displaced by 4IR. To enable the adoption of 4IR technologies, employers expect that a larger proportion of the workforce in both industries will be concentrated in technical occupations by 2025.

There will be significant changes in the relative importance of various skill sets for workers in each industry as the distribution of occupations changes.

Digital and/or information and communication technology skills will be increasingly valued by firms in the textile and garment manufacturing industry while creative thinking and design skills will be increasingly sought after by IT–BPO employers.

Strong skills development policies are needed to help workers re-skill, particularly those in occupations prone to displacement.

These policies are also needed to build a workforce able to support the adoption of 4IR technologies. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is poised to fundamentally change the future of work.

4IR can be described as the advent of “cyber-physical systems” involving entirely new capabilities for people and machines, wherein new technologies, such as IOT, AI, additive manufacturing, robotics, and Big Data analysis among others, become embedded within societies.

4IR is fundamentally different from past industrial revolutions in its potential implications for economies and the workforce.

The report finds that 4IR will have a transformational effect on jobs and skills in the textile and garment manufacturing and IT–BPO industries in Punjab with strong potential for positive gains in jobs and productivity, which can be reaped through adequate investments in skills and training.

Key findings of the study in Punjab include the following: (i) Firms in both industries recognise the potential labour productivity gains from 4IR technologies but require additional support to adopt these technologies. (a) Textile and garment manufacturers estimate that the adoption of 4IR technologies could increase labour productivity (i.e., output per worker) by 35 percent between 2020 and 2025, while IT–BPO firms estimate a 45 percent increase. (b) However, only 35 percent of textile and garment manufacturers and 53 percent of IT–BPO firms surveyed have a strong understanding of 4IR technologies and their applications, and a significant proportion would require additional support to reap the gains from adopting such technologies.

(ii) The adoption of 4IR technologies can bring about overall job gains in the textile and garment manufacturing and IT–BPO industries in Punjab, but targeted policies are needed to ensure that job gains are equitably distributed. (a) The study estimates that the adoption of 4IR technologies in the textile and garment manufacturing and IT–BPO industries will create net job gains by comparing the displacement and productivity effects of adopting 4IR technologies.

The number of new jobs created by productivity gains from adopting 4IR technologies will exceed the number of jobs displaced by automation. (b) As a result of 4IR technologies adoption, more jobs are expected to be created: 390,000 new jobs in Punjab’s textile and garment manufacturing industry and 7,000 in the IT–BPO industry.

This is over and beyond the business-as-usual job growth in a scenario without 4IR adoption, meaning that these jobs are fully attributable to 4IR adoption.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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