How Nigeria can reduce the effect of technological advancement on the labour market


By Jeremy Godson

Technology will soon wipe off the type of jobs we know today. It will cause over 800m job loss but the sped would be faster in the advanced countries. Nigeria and the developing countries would be slower in transition phase but Nigeria can do something.

Technology is the key factor which decides business processes. It is since agreed that the world is experiencing what has been termed the fourth industrial revolution. The digitalization of technology and the internet have totally revolutionalized industrial and business processes. The effect of this fourth industrial revolution is said to have comparative effects as the first industrial revolution. AI, robotics and automation are products of this technological revolution. For companies looking to save money, the idea to replace a human with a computer or robot that can work 24/7 with little pay, no benefits and often faster and fewer errors is enticing.

The move from human-based labor to machine-based labor which current technological advancements promise has a variety of consequences on labor markets. An immediate consequence is that a large number of workers will lose their jobs. According to a research by Mckinsey Global, 800,000 million jobs will be replaced by machines by 2030. That is close to a billion of the world’s workforce. The worst hit experts say would be unskilled jobs, as it is easier to program machines to carry out monotonous jobs with simple commands than complex jobs. According to research, some of these jobs to be affected are assembly line and factory workers, bus, taxi and truck drivers by self-driving cars, phone operators, telemarketers and receptionist through automated calls, bank teller and clerks through automatic teller machines (ATMs), pharmaceutical prescriptions by robots, information gathering, analysts and researchers, journalists and reporters through computer generated articles, farming etc.

On the long run, however, experts predict more jobs will be created. This would be as a result of expansion of industries due to higher and efficient productivity thereby accommodating more people and the creation of new kinds of jobs to cope with next innovations and industry demands. However this would favour skilled workers who will be needed in jobs relating to these innovations or jobs resulting from them, like maintenance of these machines and market launch. Unskilled labour is however predicted to grow obsolete as these technologies improve. Digitalization and the internet have already expanded the opportunities for start-ups and self-employment through online business, new industries like the App business hace already employed many. Facebook app alone has employed over 170,000 workers. New skills like graphics design, web development and cyber security have come on board as a result of the internet and digitalization, employing millions at good pay. Security, both physical and virtual, will employ huge numbers because these innovations would open security gaps, needing more people to keep guard. People doing things would need others to keep watch in the emerging world. Terrorism would increase by the day, requiring large army of defenders for anybody to move about.

The degree to which these effects would have on the labor market is determined by how much the economy is dependent on advanced technology. Experts confirm that the effects of tech on labor market would affect industrialized and developed countries more than it would on developing economies. This is because developing economies don’t have the funds to invest in the latest technological innovations. However as long as developing economies arch higher to meet global standards they would be bound to receive similar effects  according to the rate of development, especially as the labor force of developing nations are mostly unskilled labourers.

In fact they would be the worst-hit in the event of industrialization. It would seem therefore that technological advancement as a necessary process of development comes with a price today, which is the adjustment period where people lose their jobs and have to relearn new and relevant skills. Not everyone survives the transition; in fact the first industrial revolution gave rise to political revolutions including the famous communist revolution. Governments are however advised to prepare their labor force for this transition.

For developing countries, the fact that the impact of the fourth industrial revolution powered by innovations in digitalization and internet will have minimum impact to their labour market can be an advantage. It is an opportunity to learn from the developed economies as to the best way to prepare towards the effect of new technological advancement. They cannot continue to rely on inferior technology forever; they would have to grow at some point to meet up with global standards. At that point they would be forced to face similar huddles these developed countries now face.

It is their duty now to prepare for phased transition intead of the rushed type that Western world would face. The time to start is now.