The Concept of a Just Transition is as Relevant to the Fourth Industrial Revolution as it is for the Move towards a Low Carbon Economy

Two parallel developments are taking place in Africa that are of key significance to workers. The first one is the concerted effort to move the national economies from depending on fossil-based energy to a clean low-carbon energy. The second is the continents gradual embrace of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Organized labour has been active, in some countries like South Africa in engaging parties advocating for and implementing the transition to low-carbon economies to ensure that the interests of workers and communities are taken care of and are not sacrificed in the transition. Organized labour refers to the process of energy transition that takes into account the interests of workers and workers’ communities as ‘a just transition’. Regarding the 4IR, organized labour has not yet come up with a clear and consensus-based position on how to deal with the revolution. Organized labour’s position on 4IR can at best be described as a work in progress. Against this background, and in recognition of the need for organized labour to urgently engage with the 4IR phenomenon, this article makes the case that worker-related tenets of a just transition in the energy sector also apply to a migration to the 4IR economy. As such, organized labour should form a common position demanding a just transition to the 4IR. The proposal of what should constitute a just transition to the 4IR should mirror that of the just transition to a low-carbon economy as articulated in the International Labour Organisations (ILO’s) Decent Work Agenda. In particular it should include, social dialogue, social protection, rights at work and employment creation and protection.