By its nature, automation replaces human-driven work with machine-driven work. While automation, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution specifically, could lead to massive disruption as manufacturers replace human workers with artificial intelligence and robotics, those jobs could be replaced with new roles that emerge.
According to the World Economic Forum's "Future of Jobs 2020" report, 43% of businesses indicate that they are set to reduce their workforce due to technology integration. However, 34% say they plan to expand their workforce due to technology integration, while 41% plan to expand their use of contractors for task-specialized work.
By 2025, the report notes the time spent on current tasks at work by humans and machines may be equal. As a result of this new division of labor, it predicts that 85 million jobs may be displaced due to Industry 4.0 automation. However, it also predicts that 97 million new jobs may emerge to meet the new needs of manufacturing. In other words, the convergence of AI and the economy is more complex than it may seem at first, and there could be a net upside potential in the end.
Just as spreadsheets decimated the paper ledger industry, for example, Industry 4.0 may eliminate many manual, low-skill positions. However, spreadsheets didn't stop the need for analytically minded workers; it just freed them from the drudgery of entering numbers onto paper by hand. Similarly, the Fourth Industrial Revolution could allow workers to shift their work from repetitive labor to critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving. Already, manufacturers are looking to Industry 4.0 to redeploy employees to create more value; according to the World Economic Forum, companies hope to internally redeploy 50% of workers displaced by technological automation through reskilling as opposed to making wider use of layoffs.