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Fear of jobs bloodbath in SA over automation

May 05 2017 17:54
Liesl Peyper

Durban – South Africa has a responsibility to automate and digitise in a responsible manner and not replace the work that humans can do with that of machines, said Nhlamu Dlomu, KPMG partner and executive director of human resources. 

Speaking to Fin24 on the sidelines of this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa, Dlomu, who has a particular interest in the future of jobs, said she was concerned about the number of job losses that the advent of automation could cause, particularly in South Africa. 

READ: SA's place in a changing world 

“With the fourth industrial revolution there are scary numbers of job losses in developed countries like the US and UK and the question is what will happen in a society such as South Africa.” 

Dlomu said although government hasn’t yet announced its policy with regard to automation the country has a responsibility to not automate “ruthlessly”. 

“The pace and type of automation is something we as South Africans need to think about. Take petrol attendants, for example. Why do we still have people putting in petrol? It’s because we need to have people doing these kinds of things.” 

READ: Slight drop in SA's unemployment rate

As a developing country, South Africa needs to acknowledge that it needs to improve economic participation and create jobs. “There is power in people and we have strong human resources. We should therefore consciously choose to not automate everything in order for us to employ more people.” 

'Connect unemployed youth'

Dlomu, who facilitated a session at the WEF on technology and job creation, pointed out that there’s a good opportunity that can be derived from the significant unemployed youth, especially in South Africa. 

READ: Millennials worry about unemployment - survey 

She explained that a large number of these youths are technologically well-versed. “They understand technology and have a desire and yearning for it, plus they have devices that they can use.” 

But access to data is a dilemma – not only in South Africa, but on the continent as a whole. 

“On a practical level it means we need the infrastructure for data dissemination in the cities, but also the rural areas, which will enable the youth to connect with like-minded people the world over.” 

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