Uberisation of the Labour Market

22 February, 2017

On 22 February, over lunch, the Think Tank Hub organized a Think Tank Talk with guest speaker Mr. Jan Smit, an expert from the Centre for Strategy & Evaluation Services based in London. With his team, Mr. Smit had recently presented “Industry 4.0” to the European Parliament, a research paper on the new technologies driving a fourth industrial revolution. Click here to read the report.


24 participants from International Geneva (Diplofoundation, ILO, OHCHR, UNICEF, UNOG, UNRISD, WB, and the EU Mission to the UN), from the think tank community (Avenir-Suisse, Effective Altruism Geneva, foraus, and Relational Thinking) and the “new ways of working community” (La Serre) attended the event.


Mr Smit’s intervention started with a definition of industry 4.0 before exploring the mechanisation of the labour market, the internet of things, and the broader concept of uberisation. He spoke of the impact technology has in manufacturing and services, and drew the link between changing demographics in the developing world and the changes we are facing in economics. His broad but stimulating take instinctively sparked debate.


“Humans can’t be replaced by robots” - an obvious yet pertinent quote that was stated amongst the participants, challenging the future role of Artificial Intelligence. Participants from the ILO gave a legal perspective on the impact technology will have on employment regulation, and questioned whether the change will be as big in the field of economics. Questions addressed by the participants concerned how regulation and policy changes can be applied at a local and global scale - is the answer more top-down regulation of tech giants? Or rather bottom-up redistribution and training?


The talk also touched on the importance of values in decisions made on regulation, and on what kind of society we want to create for humanity. We also encountered the development issue: whether new regulations would increase the North-South gap even further or whether this is a chance to reduce inequalities.


The participants agreed on one point: policy makers must play the leading role in finding a solution for inequality through better implementation of values and ethics and, most of all, by improving access to and quality of education.

Jan Smit from CSES
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foraus (Swiss Forum on Foreign Policy) generates independent, high quality recommendations for foreign policy decision makers and the public, thereby bridging the gap between academia and politics. Its non-partisan approach aims to promote an open dialogue and informed decision-making on all aspects of Swiss foreign policy. foraus is a grassroots organization.


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