Implications of automation for workers in Vietnam
The line between using technology to manage workers and using technology to control workers is a thin one. In an interview with FES, labor expert Dr. Pham Thi Thu Lan, advocates for involving workers and trade unions in the process of using technology and worker-related data at work.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution was a revolutionary breakthrough in automation, because now automation does not only take away manual labor, but also most of the humans’ cognitive work. Sensor technology, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI); they have all allowed machines to be able to create products that could satisfy the needs of each individual. A great deal of brainwork can now be carried out by machines, so if technology is given free rein to develop, jobs for humans will not disappear entirely, but certain categories of jobs will be largely automated and may disappear altogether one day.
We need to consider this matter in depth, since technology can greatly impact upon human beings, both positively and negatively. In the garment and footwear industries, while the advantage of manual labor still exceeds the costs associated with technology, technology might well be utilized to manage workers to increase productivity and management efficiency. CCTVs might be installed everywhere to monitor the aptitude, attitude, and behaviors of workers. In some countries, there are even businesses that equip gloves and labor clothing items with a chip to monitor maneuvering and the progress of the work to improve technology, and also to monitor the individual aptitude of each worker. The right to personal freedom is sacrificed over the use of technology. Personal data on work capability, attitude, and behaviors of workers are all stored, leading to the controlling of workers through personal data, which could be used to threaten workers if they want to leave or confront the business. This creates a new kind of work pressure and stress for workers. Personal data can even be commodified and sold by businesses for profit.
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