For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Industry 4.0 and the future of quality work in the global digital economy"

by Rainnie, Al; Dean, Mark (2020)


ABSTRACTThis paper engages with debates in academic literatures over Industry 4.0 (i4.0) and the Future of Work (FoW), critiquing their development in practical isolation from each other despite i4.0 recently coming to resemble in policymaking a widely adopted narrative for the FoW in the digital age. We argue that beyond their own individual inadequacies, both approaches have common failings. We conceptualise the role of i4.0 in shaping the FoW in terms of the development of global value chains and i4.0?s implications for their digitalisation, where there is an underdeveloped analysis of change. We argue that the clearest expression of i4.0 is in the impact of ?platform capitalism?, which already has implications for workers in the Global South and which, via i4.0?s digital integration with production, will potentially have significant implications for the quality of work in the Global North.

Key Passage

the ability of machines to bridge the physical and virtual worlds is intrinsic to the innovative transformation of economies and societies attainable with the rapid digitalisation of production. The digitalisation of manufacturing production defines the entire life cycle of a product. Companies can develop new business models that offer complementary tertiary services to autonomous manufacturing processes, and shape key business objectives that improve their positions in the value chain (Sniderman et al. 2016). Industry 4.0 processes can facilitate value-creation to include all lifecycle phases of a product. The intelligent processes and flexible production systems that characterise i4.0 present opportunities for the creation of business models that employ smart factories to deal with mass customisation as markets for consumer goods expand on the basis of size but fragment on the basis of individualised tastes. (p.19)


Fourth Industiral Revolution, Work Quality, Global Digital Economy, Digital Economy, Policy Making, Technology



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