In the last few decades, most middle-income countries around the world have been unable to graduate to the high-income class. Those countries are presumed to struggle with an economic phenomenon called the “middle income trap” which describes the case in which productivity cannot be further raised and competitiveness is lost to some extent. On the other hand, endogenous growth models suggest that a country’s ability to generate persistent levels of welfare hinges upon the technology and innovation that it employs. Therefore, technological development has long been regarded as a way out, to bypass the so-called trap for middle-income economies, including Turkey. What is more, today, even the advanced economies prioritize their policies on high technology as the main driver to uplift the prevailing stagnant economic performances. Within this framework, industry lies at the core of those modern vital efforts.
One fundamental element to be evaluated at this point is the potential impacts of the targeted full industrial automation, which will bring about a more capital-intensive manufacturing environment. While a resulting outcome of such change could be the return of some industries from low-labor-cost locations to their homeland, another related serious implication could be seen on employment levels. This is because the new age, which is basically designed around a higher integration of systems with machines and robots, will inevitably replace the value of human labor to a certain extent. Therefore, prospective changes in jobs in terms of quantity and quality should be well grasped in order to be able to foresee the imminent consequences for individuals and societies.
In this sense, there are several viewpoints regarding the human capital effects of the new revolution, presented in a range of degrees. At the furthest end, for example, manual labor in manufacturing is expected to be radically minimized, significantly reducing the need for related workers sooner or later. A more reasonable stance in this context, however, draws attention to the structural employment shifts, indicating that certain work fields will disappear while some new job descriptions will emerge instead.
In order to concretize the issue at this point, some basic elements of the forthcoming industrial wave can be visited. To be precise, the expected transformation through robot-aided manufacturing, database quality control processes, smart supply chains and simulations provides some hints as to the job types that will be required. In this sense, positions with a nature of more manual work, supervision and quality control are anticipated to fade away, whereas those with higher technical skills will come to the fore. Thus, the revolution is being claimed to unquestionably surge the demand for engineers of various fields, as well as data analysts, simulation experts and R&D staff.
However, the vital question that remains to be answered is: To what extent will the new job creations in the cyber-physical industrial world compensate for the losses of traditional positions? It is hard to tell. However, one thing to be sure of is that the cost to the labor force will be more manageable if proper measures are taken in terms of education. That is to say, the human capital aspect of the new industrial revolution necessitates prompt planning with an educational focus that will equip students with technological backgrounds, starting from early ages. Furthermore, in order to diminish the relevant costs to the workforce in the short to medium term, it is important for corporations to consider providing training programs for their employees in order to re-skill them. In this context, there is no doubt that Turkey needs to improve its educational system towards science and technology and shape its labor market in a supportive way.