The fear that technology could make certain jobs obsolete has existed for decades. Workers have shared this concern as economists have pondered about how technological advancements could alter labor demands. One popular view around this topic is that it’s possible new tech could put some workers out of jobs in certain industries or tasks, but increase the need for labor in other sectors, according to a recent Ericsson report. The Internet of Things (IoT) is often brought up in the technology’s impact on labor discussions, partly because of how much usage it gets in various business arenas. IoT is used in healthcare sensors and automated warehouses, and it can help automate and monitor processes like goods production and delivery of services. Additionally, IoT systems can collect and share a lot of data over the Internet that helps enterprises make more informed business decisions.
How IoT is being adopted around the world
IoT device usage has increased significantly around the world during the past decade, particularly in China, according to Ericsson’s report. However, Sweden has the highest rate of IoT adoption per capita (193 cellular IoT connections per 100 people). The report also noted that there’s a digital divide between developed and developing economies when it comes IoT adoption, similar to the divide that existed with mobile broadband and other previous technologies.
Countries with lower income look to be catching up in terms of IoT adoption, however. In 2021, the average number of IoT connections per inhabitant in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries was only 1.2 times more than non-OECD nations. In 2010, OECD countries had 10 times as many IoT connections per inhabitant than non-OECD countries.
IoT and its impact on employment
It’s uncertain if IoT will have a negative or positive over impact on labor; the impact likely will depend on the industry and profession. When Ericsson examined the relationship between IoT adoption, connections per 100 habitants in a country and employment, it found no true correlation between IoT usage and unemployment rates in the countries used in the study.
When OECD and non-OECD countries were broken out separately, however, a positive correlation between IoT adoption and total employment in OECD countries was noted, driven by service sector employment. The study also noted that a one-unit increase in the number of IoT connections per 100 inhabitants was associated with a 0.06 percent increase in the amount of people employed in OECD countries. For example in Sweden, that 0.06 percent increase in IoT adoption would equal approximately 3,000 new jobs in 2021. The study found a more negative and less strong correlation between IoT adoption and employment in the industry sector that may be driven by non-OECD countries, however.
IoT’s future impact on employment
Ultimately, the results of Ericsson’s analysis revealed a generally positive relationship between cellular IoT and employment, especially in countries with high IoT use. The results are in line with previous IoT research, which found a positive impact on productivity and other forms of tech like mobile broadband.
“The recurring worry that new technologies and automation would make more workers redundant compared to the new job opportunities created seems to be, at least for now, unfounded,” Ericsson’s report said.