RESEARCH

Project

Relationship Between Technology Adoption and Work in Brazil
Tim Sturgeon, Alejandro Frank

How are new digital technologies changing the relationship between technology and work in Brazil? We can assume that the characteristics of work and workforces help to shape technology and how it is adopted, and conversely, that the adoption of new technology is changing work.  However, we know little about the relationship between the two or what the outcomes are in regard to changes in jobs, occupations, tasks, skills, and training. We hypothesize that the falling costs and rising capabilities of new digital technologies for industry (Industry 4.0) are creating tensions as the potential for substitution of jobs increases. On the other hand, we also see that digital technologies create potential opportunities for better work, entirely new types of jobs, and new pathways for innovation. Either way, digital technologies are certainly creating demand for new types of skills, and it is important to identify them. 

Middle-income countries such as Brazil face specific tensions stemming from changes in technology and work related to Industry 4.0. Brazil is facing slow and uneven recovery from a recent economic crisis, high unemployment, deindustrialization, pressure to relax labor laws and protectionist industrial policies, and possible cuts to public spending on innovation and training services. At the same time, the technological changes related to Industry 4.0 are progressing rapidly on a global basis, putting pressure on firms to understand, adopt, and adapt a host of new digital technologies for design, production, and connecting to suppliers and customers. Given the high stakes, companies and policy-makers in Brazil need an up-to-date understanding of the opportunities and challenges arising from the processes of digital transformation along with relevant advice for how to best respond.

The goal of the project is to observe patterns in how technology and work are co-evolving in Brazil and ask how these processes are changing the demand for skills in industrial firms. The research prominently includes, but is not limited to manufacturing enterprises. To develop a picture beyond the shop floor, the project is examining technology and work across three broad business functions: R&D and new product development, production, and distribution and services. The research focuses on the quantity and quality of jobs and changes in skill requirements for occupations associated with these functions. It also considers the impact of new technologies in transversal IT systems. The project methodology includes several rounds of qualitative interviews and a survey. It is a collaboration between researchers at the Industrial Performance Center and the Organizational Engineering Group (NEO) at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Porto Alegre, Brazil.