Labour market
Digitalisation doesn’t kill jobs

The concern that technical advancements kills jobs is nothing new. At present it is the changes in the course of digitisation that are fuelling these fears, in particular. There are ever more warnings that human labour will no longer be needed in the digitalised world of work. In the foreseeable future, however, there is no threat of job losses; rather, the demand for skilled staff will continue to rise.

According to initial evaluations of the Employment Panel at the Institute of German Economy in Cologne (IW), only one in every ten companies that have a strong digital focus are planning to cut jobs in the short term. A good third of the companies, on the other hand, are planning to take on more employees within the next year. For the coming five years, as well, a large proportion of the firms want to create jobs rather than cut them. It is particularly skilled workers with completed technical training, as well as academics, who will benefit from this.

The debate on digitalisation also raises the question of the extent to which machines will replace human workforces and the factories of the future will manage using networked, self-controlling robots. Admittedly, in some individual companies, careers and industries, jobs are being lost due to technical developments, as they no longer prove economically efficient. However, new jobs are springing up in other places. Technical advancements have on the whole boosted rather than lowered employment levels.

Here we must discern how far the company is already digitalised and how significant the Internet is for their business model. Companies that engage intensively with digitisation and for which the Internet is very significant to their business make up 31.9% of the economy, according to the IW Cologne. Companies with a mid-range extent of digitalisation made up 26.9%. A good four out of ten companies, however, have relatively low levels of digitisation. These are companies that until now have only merely brushed up against digitalisation and for which the Internet plays no significant role in their day-to-day business.

Digitalisation is also a threat where it offers new types of working models. The keyword “crowdsourcing” – taken from the term “outsourcing” – refers to sourcing parts of or whole projects to freelancers and Internet users. The fear here is that the Internet will increasingly become a platform where companies can buy external expertise on a temporary and case-by-case basis and so replace their own regular staff.

By commissioning jobs to external freelancers, the companies can act quickly and flexibly and access a broad spectrum of expert knowledge. New software and operating systems can now be tested easily and cheaply using a large number of technically adept users via the Internet. To date, however, Crowdtester and Crowdworker are used by only a few companies. Even in the IT industry, which plays a trailblazing role in implementing such concepts, only 4.2% of the companies said that they are currently using crowdsourcing platforms or plan to use them in the foreseeable future. (Source: IW Cologne/bs)