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Advanced digitalisation – also called the fourth industrial revolution - will drastically change the labour market and the working environment. Exactly what these changes are going to look like will depend heavily on how companies, social partners and politicians reach their decisions in different manners.

Changes in the labour market and the world of work

Especially the potential of digital technology to substitute features heavily in public discussion: Which tasks can be automated and replaced by technologies such as artificial intelligence? Which occupational and employee groups will be affected by these possible changes?

Although these factors tend to decrease the demand for labour, there are also three categories of factors that lead to an increase in demand.  First, these are professionals possessing competencies pertaining to new technologies, for example experts in machine learning. Second, these new technologies are advancing the potential for new products and services otherwise inconceivable. For example, big data based methods enable completely new kinds of business consulting or the design of educational programmes. Thirdly, provided that the factors mentioned so far lead to positive prosperity effects, additional employment opportunities can arise in personal services, for example in gastronomy or in the entertainment and cultural sector.

The changes in the labour market will also find their way into the working environment of companies and businesses. However, they do not result directly from the new technological possibilities, as  technological determinism does not exist. Rather the decisive factor is the organisational model of the company. Depending on the model and  with identical technology respectively, there could be  an increased need for both, high- and low-skilled workers (polarisation) and no need for personnel  with medium-level qualifications, or a rise of the overall qualification requirements altogether.

New opportunities because of digitalisation: skill enhancement and learning facilitation

Decisions about organisational models, in detail who gets which task, who is responsible for what and who commands what scope of action and for decision-making, essentially determine  the quality as seen by the working people: Is work being perceived as challenging or boring? As an opportunity for further advancement or as a dead end?
The conduciveness of work to learning is becoming increasingly important. As professional biographies extend and innovation cycles shorten,  continual learning becomes indispensable. The conduciveness of work to learning depends initially on the organisational models described above. However, the possibilities offered by digital technology can significantly enhance learning facilitation. Tutorial assistance systems, for example, integrate learning directly into the work process. Powerful tools of data analysis and visualisation can raise the understanding of one's own workspace and its respective environments to a completely new qualitative level.
The penetration of the physical world with sensors and the interconnectedness within the Internet of Things provide the basis for a wealth of data that can be used by appropriately designed human-technology systems to enhance the skills of working people, for creativity and learning.

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