The Future of Industrial Work: New pathways and policies of structural transformation?



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VIENNA, 19-20 September 2019 – Two United Nations agencies will join an international network of academics, civil society organisations and policymakers to host a workshop on automation, artificial intelligence, and premature de-industrialization.

The interdisciplinary workshop, co-hosted by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the United Nations University and the Global Inequality Dynamics Research Network will investigate the future of industrial work, including threats posed to developing countries by emerging technologies and ‘premature de-industrialization’.

With sessions focusing on automation and globalization, jobs and development, as well as premature de-industrialization and structural transformation, the event will feature researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Harvard and Johannesburg, as well as from the International Monetary Fund, the Overseas Development Institute and the World Trade Organization, among many others.

The workshop will open with a keynote speech from Margaret McMillan (Tufts University), followed by five subject-tailored sessions, and a policy panel chaired by Kunal Sen (UNU-WIDER). As such, more than 30 researchers from around the world will tackle the most pressing questions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution:

  • What is the impact of new technologies and ‘Industry 4.0’ on comparative advantage, industrial work and social and economic inclusiveness in developing countries?
  • What are the distributional and political dynamics of new modes of structural change? And what public policies are plausible and appropriate?
  • How are the manufacturing and service sectors interdependent? Does a strong manufacturing base support the growth of high-tech service industries? Can the growth of high-productivity service industries drive industrialization? What public policies are required to create synergies between manufacturing and service development for inclusive and sustainable growth?
  • What would make traditional forms of structural transformation – industrialization – more viable in the future years? What public policies should be discussed and implemented?


The event will feature a number of practical outputs, including media interviews with high-level researchers and a series of policy briefs, set for release in late 2019. For more details, including the two-day programme, please see the event homepage and follow the Twitter accounts of UNIDO and UNU-MERIT and the ESRC GPID Network.

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Media credits: R.Quevenco / IAEA; J.Hogg / World Bank; IBM Research; R.Oo / Flickr



Venue: Vienna, Austria

Date: 19-20 September 2019


UNU-MERIT