The regional social impact of the 4.0 technological transformation

How is 4.0 digital transformation affects labour markets? According to the ESPON T4 project, the impact is present and complex. 

First, in manufacturing-related transformations, displacement of jobs is a strong trend, affecting both low- and high-skill jobs. Job displacement takes place regardless of the skill level but with different intensity across regions.

High displacement of both manual and cognitive (routine and non-routine) jobs (i.e. low and high-skill jobs) characterises primarily Eastern countries, Greece, Portugal, and some spare regions in France and Scandinavian countries.

Moderate displacement is, instead, primarily concentrated in France, Germany, central Italy, central Spain and Scandinavian countries. Displacement of primarily low-skill, manual routine jobs is primarily concentrated in Northern Italy and some spare regions in France, Portugal and Sweden. On the other hand, displacement of cognitive non-routine jobs (deskilling) is primarily concentrated in France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden.

Second, in service-related transformations, new jobs are created; the increase of the number of jobs concerns especially low-skill and high-skill jobs, i.e. gig jobs and élite jobs while it erodes the share of middle-skill jobs, leading to polarisation in the job market. Moreover, élite jobs’ creation takes place in a much more limited number of cases with respect to the gig jobs phenomenon. Therefore, in service-based transformation patterns, the prevailing outcome is of either deskilling (because of a high creation of gig jobs) or polarisation.

Deskilling through gig jobs creation primarily takes place in UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and the Scandinavian capital regions. In these regions, the creation of a gig economy is clearly at place, and can lead to a generalised impoverishment of skills of the labour force and to deskilling.

Upskilling through élite-jobs’ creation, exists only in two regions in Southern Italy. High polarization is relatively diffused and primarily concentrated in Germany, Southern Italy and some spare regions in France, coastal and Northern Spain, UK, Belgium. Moderate polarization characterises some spare regions in France, Greece, and some capital regions in Eastern countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Latvia).

To address these challenges actions related to education and training policies are necessary. The priority should be to speed on digital skills for both young people and adults by updating the Digital Education Action Plan, as suggested by the political guidelines for the European Commission 2019-2024 (Von der Leyen, 2019).

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