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

Industrialisation was the prime pathway to prosperity and job growth throughout the 19th and much of the 20th century. Many scholars argue that, for developing countries, industrialisation continues to be essential given the multiple benefits it has been shown to provide to productivity, exports and employment growth as well as to various dimensions of inclusive development. Advocates of industrial policy moreover see an active role for the state in pushing industrial transformation.

Yet, the current trend of structural change may suggest a departure from this traditional pathway. There is evidence of a polarisation between successfully industrialising countries and those facing a risk of ‘premature de-industrialisation’. The rise of breakthrough technologies such as recent advancements in automation and AI could diminish the labour cost advantage of developing countries and in the long term make it difficult for them to follow the traditional industrialisation path of entering into labour-intensive industries and continuous upgrading. Moreover, productivity gains due to technological progress may mean that industrialisation is becoming more capital intensive but could still be an important driver of economy-wide employment creation.

An international and interdisciplinary workshop jointly organised by UNIDO, UNU-MERIT and the ESRC GCRF Global Poverty and Inequality Dynamics Research Network will explore these questions.

The keynote speaker at the workshop is Margaret McMillan (Tufts University). The workshop will also feature a high-profile policy panel chaired by Kunal Sen (UNU-WIDER).

Venue: Vienna, Austria

Date: 19-20 September 2019