Guest Post: The Possible Effects of 6G Transition on the Labour Market

August 15, 2022

Written by 6GWorld Contributor

By Alyona Potsyba, Jooble

The evolution of cellular technology has had a major effect on the economy and labour market. Since the introduction of 1G in 1979, there has been a constant advancement in this field.

Although 6G technology is in the early R&D stages, it is already possible to evaluate its focus. It is also interesting to think of how it can shape the global economy, major industries, and workforce.

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Cellular Technology’s Impact Through The Years

First, it is important to base any forecast on the already existing data. As 5G is being adopted, we can witness how it affects the world today.

So far, we’ve seen 5 waves of evolution when it comes to cellular technology:

  • 1G – enables cellular technology;
  • 2G – was voice-focused, more affordable, and reliable;
  • 3G – added access to internet data;
  • 4G – provided native MBB;
  • 5G – offered further virtualization.

All of them have certainly impacted end customers. Now we have the ability to access speedy internet and massive coverage, which creates new opportunities. In 5G, new features apply to manufacturing, the automotive industry, telecommunications, smart homes, etc.

As a result, this creates new major employment opportunities.

According to the Progressive Policy Institute’s research, there are three waves of job growth that have to do with wireless technologies:

  • The rise of wireless telecom (1990-2007) affected 1% of the global economy, creating 200,000 new jobs by 2007;
  • The App Economy 2007-2019 affected 20% of the global economy with 2.2 million new jobs;
  • The 5G-6G Revolution 2019-2034 will affect the whole global economy, creating an expected 4.3 million new jobs by 2034.

There is a steady trend here. More advanced technologies offer more opportunities and create more positions worldwide. Services and products that were not possible even 15 years ago, such as personal finance apps or Uber, already impact the labour market.

Every new advancement requires professionals to work on it as well as specialists to develop and integrate it. As adoption continues, more options arise for better and faster services, more advanced ecosystems, and a wide range of consumer products.

The same study offers insight into what industries experience major changes. Even without 5G, healthcare and social assistance, construction, and educational services will experience a rise in labour opportunities.

Wireless technology offers automation of many redundant and time-consuming processes. This helps companies save costs, speed up the workflow, and reduce human-related errors and risks.

Automation is a mixed blessing for the labour market. While overall it may open up more jobs, they are liable to be more skilled and more demanding. In the short term this risks eliminating those employees whose skills can’t be refreshed or upgraded to adjust to the new environment, creating a K-shaped economy where some thrive and some lose out. Indeed, there is some evidence that this is already happening.

Two industries in particular are going to be affected negatively when it comes to jobs. These are manufacturing and utilities. Researchers expect a decline in the number of positions here because of the automation and optimisation opportunities.

The Effects of 5G Adoption

There are three key ways 5G adoption is changing the world today, which can be taken as a blueprint of what society can expect from 6G.

1. Accelerated number of new job opportunities

According to the IHS Markit study, 5G is expected to support about 35 million jobs by 2035, which is more than in previous research. In the US alone, it has already created more than 106,000 new positions in 2020.

The main industries affected are telecommunications, construction, and network infrastructure management. As the technology gets more advanced, it needs more people to support and upgrade it. Skills in data management and analytics, AI/ML, application development, and cybersecurity have all seen a huge rise in demand globally which isn’t going to go away any time soon.

But it also means new devices and gadgets, as well as demand for people to design, create, install, and maintain them. Overall, the tech labour market will continue to grow.

2. Shift to remote work

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend for more flexible employment was gaining more popularity. Remote work can be beneficial not only for employees but usually for employers as well. And with more pervasive wireless technologies, it is much more accessible now. However, this new environment affects team dynamics and the ability of employers to control what is happening.

3. Better collaboration among professionals

5G significantly increases connectivity and reliability of internet connection necessary for interactions. It means faster video calls, stable meetings, and new collaboration options. Holographic calls are already on their way to massive adoption, for instance.

This means that flexible work is here to stay. And employees can comfortably perform and interact from any part of the world and the comfort of their homes.

Source https://unsplash.com/photos/dLLQNd7RP28

How Might the 5G to 6G transition affect the job market?

It is important to say that 6G is still very much in the vision stage for now, so there is no exact data on how it will impact the labour market. But it is quite possible to make some inferences.

For 6G connectivity, speed, and latency are less of a focus. These goals are already achieved with 5G. So what will be the focal point for 6G? It is believed that innovation will strive for the wide application of AI, metaverse, virtualization, and sensor networks.

The key use cases for 6G include:

  • More pervasive and realistic VR/AR;
  • Avatar communications;
  • Further industrial automation;
  • Digital Twins;
  • Metaverse;
  • Industrial IoT (warehouses, fabrics, logistical routes);
  • Super Sensing Networks.

It is expected that telecommunications and computing will converge into one sphere. AI will become an integral part of the infrastructure, so that end-users will have access to new AI-powered solutions. Meanwhile, businesses and companies will develop or purchase advanced algorithms to work with valuable data.

Today only 1% of data from connected humans and devices can be processed. By the time 6G arrives we will see a dramatic increase in the number and variety of connected devices, increasing the amount of data generated by many times.

Also, various network technologies will work together. We will see the combination of satellite, nomadic, fixed and mobile networks in one ecosystem. This will make communications and computing more powerful, robust, and reliable.

6G is projected to converge physical and digital spaces. Consumers will be able to control physical objects remotely or enjoy the metaverse.

What Does It Mean for the Labour Market?

6G will create even more new job opportunities. Firstly, there will be a demand for qualified personnel in all things related to STEM (IT, AI, robotics, VR, AR, data analysis, etc). The second wave of roles will have to do with the creation and management of new products and services.

However, some percentage of unqualified positions will decline. Processes in manufacturing and utilities will be automated further. Many things will be done by machines and algorithms instead of humans.

For people to make the most of this new labour market they will need to become familiar with the uses of AI to support work, enabling them to become more effective in the roles they adopt. However, we are some way away from AI that is creative or capable of exercising judgment in ways that humans can; instead, what humans find easy AI finds hard, and vice versa. There are many opportunities for automation to act as an augmentation for human skills. However, the adjustment will not be easy or painless in many industries as, over the coming decades, we explore what roles are best supported by people and what can be automated; and, by extension, what new roles become available and which become redundant.

Just as, in most countries, the idea of a ‘job for life’ has disappeared, so we may expect the concept of a ‘career for life’ to become redundant. Being able to adapt and retrain may well become the essential soft skill of the future.

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