Digital Automation Replaces the Human Workforce – By Vaughan Jones


Another Outcry from the Common Man

High unemployment is said to be the cause of the negative state of the world economy, and that of every country’s economy. And, in recent times, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused it to be far worse for most of us.  However, another factor is that of society allowing the Information Technology hub, large international companies, together with governments, to replace their income producing jobs with computers and computerized machinery. This besides artificial intelligence, which is taking control of the world at present, also by design of the world powers that be.

Some massive production companies have moved their manufacturing operations to foreign countries where labour is much cheaper than in their own countries. What a shame. What a basic human rights violation in fact. Governments allow this to take place and society just looks on without raising a complaint or trying to prevent this from happening. International and global organisations promote it as well. These massive companies experience lower production costs and the make a huge profit as a result.

Similarly to the above factors, people have lost their jobs due to computerised systems being used in their stead. A couple of examples of these are bookkeepers, accountants, accounting clerks, administrative staff, secretaries, typists, receptionists, various physical industrial functions, to list a few.

From personal experience, a production site belonging to a large national company in a small town underwent a project of restructuring their staff numbers with the introduction of computerised lumber manufacturing machinery and integrated accounting software. Eventually this was implemented across the board at their other production and distribution sites.

Head office’s top management had investigated the use of advanced computerised manufacturing machinery that was available from a company in Austria. This required a huge capital outlay, but they decided to go ahead because it would ultimately save the company millions in production wages and staff benefits. The directors felt they would achieve a great return on investment.

This resulted in two hundred and thirty production and warehousing staff members at this single production site losing their jobs. One hundred and fifty-eight production employees were replaced by twelve highly trained production employees who were trained in using the new machinery.

This same scenario was repeated at five of the other production sites owned by this company.  and thousands of families’ lives were horribly impacted by this company’s actions. Normal people with normal jobs, living everyday lives. Parents with children at school and college. Lives and dreams abolished by the actions of the directors of the company.

“With 35% of all jobs in South Africa – almost 5.7 million – currently at risk of total digital automation within a mere seven years, the country could see a crippling effect compounded by a fragile economy and growing unemployment.

This is according to Dr Roze Phillips, Post Graduate Diploma in Futures Studies alumnus from the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) and MD for Accenture Consulting in Africa, who says that the country needs to act now to ensure that humans and machines can work together in the future.”1

Across the world over the past thirty years this has become the business norm across all fields of work involving thousands of companies and millions of people. Does one merely shrug this off as the result of human and technological advancement, or does one say, “Hang on a minute, this is actually a severe human rights violation.”



Disclaimer: The content of this article is solely the opinion of the author and not that of SAFREA.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


8 Responses

  1. Automation is a huge thing in the language industry, Vaughan. Post-machine translation is the latest thing, where you’re supposed to fix a translation from Google translate or some such.
    Usually, those documents are such a mess that it’s actually a new translation – not an edit – and that at slave-wage rates. The problem is, in general, though, that because so many people do these jobs – even people who are not translators or editors simply because they have to feed their families – companies easily get people to take the low rates.
    And every time a translation goes back to the client, the translation company has captured every single line of translation/editing that you have worked on. They feed that into the machines to improve the system, which means that millions of people all over the planet are helping to create the very thing that will destroy them in the end.
    Disclaimer: This is my own opinion and does not reflect the opinions of either the Safrea Chronicle or Safrea as an organisation.

  2. Thanks for these insights Vaughan – true but in some ways scary too – although automation has its benefits, the radical loss of unemployment worldwide as a consequence is rather concerning and humbling. Reinventing oneself to adapt to the future is a reality we may all have to grapple with.

    1. Hi BNG. Thank you for your comment. Yes indeed, we’re being replaced by A.I alright. Besides the obvious unemployment and global economic disaster, to me it is a basic human rights violation to a great extent.

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