36 (131) 2018
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Events Coverage

BPCC panel discussion in Kraków considers the future of the world of work

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Algorithms and robots will be responsible for something between 30% and 45% of all existing jobs disappearing by 2030, according to reports by organisations like PwC and the Economist Intelligence Unit. At the same time, Poland (and most advanced economies around the world) faces a demographic dip. Will shortages in the workplace cancel out job losses created by technology? Or will one exacerbate the other?

This was the key question to be addressed at the BPCC’s panel discussion, held at the Kraków Technology Park on 13 September 2018.

The panellists offered their views on how technologically driven changes would affect the workplace – how quickly and how deeply the changes would come, and what the Polish state needs to do to be prepared. Tomasz Zalewski, managing partner of law firm Wierzbowski Eversheds Sutherland was joined by the event’s host Krzysztof Krzysztofiak (from Kraków Technology Park), Marek Pitura from Future Processing and Anna Macnar from HRM Institute.

There were differing views as to how quickly artificial intelligence would become ‘intelligent’, learning at an ever-increasing speed; at present much of what’s sold as AI is little more than simple yes-no logic gates. Issues surrounding big data – and the skills needed to extract insight from that data, were also discussed. Would the workplace be lacking for skills? Are Poland’s schools and universities focusing on teaching the right subjects, that would create employees of the future with the right skillsets needed in tomorrow’s workplace?
Marek Pitura gave examples of today’s technology where AI is already better than humans in analysing data and coming up with practical answers; AI can scan images far faster than humans and if taught correctly can spot a target more accurately – be it a potential burst water leak or a cancerous tumour. In the field of law, Tomasz Zalewski said that scanning vast bodies of legal text can already be done faster and cheaper by trained machines, although he said that much of the progress in technology is parallel to, rather than answering, the current needs of the market – and indeed labour market.

Poland’s demographics 30 years hence do not look good; globally, a billion jobs could go by 2040, said Krzysztof Krzysztofiak. Industry 4.0 would be a driver of that process, as machines begin to talk to one another and solve each other’s problems. He ses start-ups and entrepreneurship as part of the answer. The education system needs to change to unlock the innovative potential of Poland’s young people.

Anna Macnar said that indeed, young Poles were more interested in finding satisfaction in life in running their own businesses, or working in small firms, rather than becoming a small cog in a large corporation. Work-life balance and a good workplace atmosphere are becoming increasingly important for the Millennials generation, whose hierarchy of needs is different to that of older generations.

There was a long and lively discussion among the event’s participants, with many interesting observations. The BPCC will repeat this event in Warsaw, with a view to organising a major conference at the British Embassy in the first quarter of next year to propose how the Polish state could better prepare itself and young people for the challenges that lay ahead – in particular in the areas of innovation, digitisation and above all, education and training.

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