People need to seize the moment to overcome the threat of unemployment brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Professor Imraan Valodia, Dean of Commerce Law and Management at Wits University; Mdu Zakwe, CEO of the MICT SETA; and Justin Lee, a Huawei representative, agreed that innovation could save people from loss of work.
“People speak about displacement in the mining sector,” Zakwe said. “What if we focused on the opportunities?” He said there were possibilities in other work sectors brought by the wave of technological advancements.
Lee urged the floor to consider the creative industries powered by the internet, such as Tik Tok, a media app for creating short videos.
“Essentially, people are selling their products [on the platform] through their talents,” he said. They were publicising their talents to the world and could possibly draw employment online as a result.
“Small companies such as start-ups could possibly create the future of work, not the big industry leaders,” Lee said.
Valodia said it was important to realise that data on the future of work compiled by organisations such as the International Labour Organization looked only at the formal sector.
“In South Africa, large numbers are in the informal sector”, he said, adding that there needed to be a reimagination of what work was.
Furthermore, he noted that the research data was on an international scale and not necessarily at local level.
“We have not had any serious research done on [our future of work]. We should start to do that research,” Valodia said.