In Japan, the government has been propagating Society 5.0 for some years now. This is the logical continuation of the development of society from hunter-gatherers (Society 1.0), via agriculture (Society 2.0), industry (Society 3.0), via the information society (Society 4.0), to “a human-centered society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems by a system that highly integrates cyberspace and physical space.” The Society 5.0 aspires to achieve a forward-looking society that breaks down the existing sense of stagnation, a society whose members have mutual respect for each other, transcending the generations, and a society in which each and every person can lead an active and enjoyable life. This aspiration builds on a high degree of convergence between cyberspace (virtual space) and physical space (real space). In Society 5.0, people, things, and systems are all interconnected in the cyberspace. Artificial Intelligence (AI) supports information exchange, evaluation, distribution and utilisation.
A large number of research institutions (e.g. Prognos in Germany) have set to work to find out what impact Society 5.0 will have on such diverse areas of life as “work & income,” “mobility & urbanity,” “integration & migration,” and “health & age.” In this blog post, I will only briefly touch on the first field of life, namely “work & income”.
This is because the effects of digitalization, globalization, demographics and other trends will strongly influence this field of life in our society. Thus, work and thus the employment effect of work will not become less but will change strongly in the direction of other work contents and circumstances. Previously highly routine work will disappear sooner rather than later as a result of automation and be replaced by more highly skilled work. Employment relationships will become less stable and permanent and more project-based, temporary and freelance. The number of long-term employees on full-time contracts will decline and work will increasingly be done by self-employed people engaged on a contractual basis from project to project. See also last year´s blogpost on “how we will work in the future”).
In general, the competence requirements continue to increase. As already shown in the IPMA study on the effects of AI on project work, competencies in dealing with digital technologies, tools and data will be increasingly necessary in the future. The amount of data will increase exponentially, and in the workplace, competence in dealing with data should therefore also increase sharply. New professions will emerge, primarily in the handling of data, and these will also drastically change traditional professions at the same time. For example, the competence to analyse data in relation to Internet usage will determine whether suitable products and services can be offered. This will have a significant impact on incomes. Whereas today it is primarily the developers of new products and services with their high qualifications who earn the best salaries, in the future it will tend to be the data analysts.
The days of wage agreements that applied only in a particular country, industry or sector are also over. Local labour markets are becoming global service markets, and services and pay are available – and comparable – internationally. Orchestrating the right skills from the global pool of experts is what should set companies apart today, whether small or large. This reduces the importance of unions, wage negotiations and other customs from the age of industry.
This raises the question of social justice. Will this take a back seat in Society 5.0? Certainly not, this question remains important, but can only be solved through education. Education must be accessible to everyone. By offering classes online, anyone can continue their education anytime, anywhere, and thus improve their chances of earning an appropriate income. Elite education for wealthy people is a thing of the past; education is being equalized in Society 5.0. Everyone should have access to educational opportunities – free of charge. Thanks to the modern information and communication technologies, virtual education is available without major restrictions. This has just been demonstrated in times of the Covid-19 pandemic. The marginal costs are also rather low and should be covered by society, which will certainly benefit later through the application of knowledge and the value add.
That may all sound a bit too positive now. Of course, there are also risks and side effects from the changed world of work. For example, the boundaries between work and private life are becoming more blurred and have to be managed by everyone themselves, because otherwise all kinds of problems arise. Collaboration between people working in different locations may seem to be made easier by technical solutions, but it requires more personal and interpersonal efforts. The frequent realignment of project teams, working in a multi-cultural and interdisciplinary team requires above all social skills and the ability to organize and manage oneself.
Last but not least, Society 5.0 also focuses on the closer interaction between people and software and hardware. What has so far appeared quite abstract under the term “human-machine interface (HMI)” is becoming reality in the projects due to the close symbiosis of humans and “machines”. Anyone who has ever slipped into a so-called “avatar” and thus wandered through a virtual world of a conference or a factory floor knows what this means. Fiction and reality are blurring, and anyone who wants to read about this is recommended to check out Ian McEwan’s novel “Machines like me”
Author: Reinhard Wagner, CEO of Tiba Management Consulting