Whenever we hear about the Fourth Industrial Revolution or 4IR or Industry 4.0 (yes, it has a lot of names), we tend to have many questions! In this article, we will answer them. And we will discuss how much this new revolution is going to affect the job industry of Bangladesh. So, buckle up!
First of all, let’s get the nitty gritty out of the way.
Coined by the World Economic Forum Founder Klaus Schwab, the term Industry 4.0 conceptualizes rapid changes to technology, industries, societal patterns and processes in the 21st century due to increasing connectivity and automation. In his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Schwab defined it saying, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution creates a world in which virtual and physical systems of manufacturing cooperate with each other in a flexible way at the global level.” And it is happening rapidly. It has been observed that the speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. Compared to the linear pace of the previous Industrial Revolutions, the Fourth is evolving rather exponentially.
Technologies in 4IR
→ Artificial Intelligence
AI is at the core of this revolution. It is one of the key technologies impacting the transformation of society, the labor market and the economy.
→ Internet of Things
Anyone else getting flashbacks of Muhammad Jaffar Iqbal’s science fiction books now? Just me? Okay!
→ Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
→ Big data
→ 3D and 4D printing
Position of Bangladesh in 4IR
It is time Bangladesh built policies and took steps to move towards 4IR. And it is not just a matter of buying smart machines and plopping them inside factories. A lot of thinking and policy-making has to go behind it. The government needs to create policies about how to handle the potential unemployment problem. For instance, an automation policy that prevents factory owners from replacing the whole workforce with automation at once can be issued.
Employment Patterns in 4IR
History says we can. As technological innovations have always created more jobs than they have made invalid. John Maynard Keynes coined the term ‘technological unemployment’ that is caused by the application of a new technology as it destructs some jobs in the short run. But as the innovation enhances productivity and increases wealth resulting in increased demand for products and services, more jobs are created in the long run. The total outcome of this creation and destruction depends on how the workforce goes through the transition. And how the transition goes is highly dependent on government policies and how well the skill upgrade of human resources is executed.
The Garment Industry of Bangladesh in 4IR
The garment industry has been the largest source of export earnings for Bangladesh for a long time. But recently, Vietnam has taken over her second-place on the garment exporters list in 2020. Even though Bangladesh has been growing at an average rate of 7% in the past decade, our position is now threatened thanks to the 2020 Preferential Trade Agreement of Vietnam with the European Union (EU). And the country has been outperforming Bangladesh in exporting to the United States for over 10 years already. This is a massive threat to our garment industry and our economy largely relies on the income from exporting garments.
The most contributing reason behind Bangladesh’s growth in the garment industry was the low price of it, mostly thanks to how cheap labor is in Bangladesh. And there is also enough availability of a skilled workforce because of the textile universities.
But introducing automation in the garment industry of Bangladesh means job loss for many garment workers which is a big concern regarding 4IR. A study by a2i says that 60% of garment workers may lose their jobs by 2030. To remedy this problem, it is necessary to invest in the training of unskilled labor forces and turn them into semi-skilled or fully skilled workforce while introducing automation to the manufacturing system. This will not only increase productivity but also develop a more valuable workforce.
Skill Development and Learning in 4IR
In simple words, our current education system needs an overhaul to accommodate 4IR skills. More focus needs to be placed on Technical and Vocational Education and Training. This can become a useful and demanding line of education for the workforce in near future as it’s proven to be in other countries. Switzerland has a 70% rate of secondary school students taking part in vocational training and the country has recently been acknowledged by the World Economic Forum to have the most highly skilled workers in the world.
But in line with that we also need to train the current workforce on 4IR skills and technologies in order to upskill them and enable them to keep working in Industry 4.0. Along with upskilling, reskilling also demands thoughts in. Many workers will not be able to be upskilled and in those cases reskilling and changing professions will have to be done. For example, nursing training can be given to unemployed garment workers to change their profession.
The bottom line is that it is time we made the leap. To keep up with the rapid revolution of automation and computing everywhere in the world, Bangladesh also needs to be dynamic. It is time to invest in new technologies for industrial growth in all sectors and in the skill development of the workforce with equal importance. Bangladesh can one day take a lead in world economics and societal growth if we have necessary policies in place and work together to execute them effectively.