Future of labor in discussion at Arab Brazilian Chamber

22 de setembro de 2017

São Paulo – The future of labor was discussed this Thursday afternoon (21) in São Paulo at the Walid Yazigi Auditorium, in the headquarters of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce. Acontece Indústria: The Future of Labor, an event held by the Recife Advanced Studies and Systems Center (CESAR), was attended by approximately 150 people and covered how different sectors, especially industry, will need to adapt to technological advances that will eliminate some jobs.

“Nearly half the population of Arab countries is made up of young people,” Arab Chamber president Rubens Hannun said in his keynote address. “We are worried about the future of labor not only in the Arab world, but in Brazil and everywhere in the world. Especially at this time, as we look into the Arab Chamber going forward, we must give thought to labor in the future, what professions and activities will emerge.”

The scenario leads to diverging opinions. Victor Teles, an executive manager with German industrial automation company Festo, for each lost job, three new positions will be created. “Some posts are already gone, and others will be in a decade,” said he, who sees technology as a tool that reduces the risk of obsoleteness. “My tip is to go with the profession you like, but always keep an eye on the technological field.”

 Marcos Vinícius de Souza, the secretary for Innovation and Business at the Brazilian Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services, has a brighter outlook when it comes to employment. é According to him, Brazil’s government has a technical team looking into the matter since 2014. After some research, a few conclusions have been arrived at. “The problem of the Brazilian worker is more of a behavioral one. We must work on social-emotional skills,” he said.

CESAR’s systems designer Fábio Maia regards artificial intelligence as the catalyst of all other technological innovation fronts, but doubts it will be widespread before 2040 because of cost issues. “The most powerful supercomputer today is in China. It can process 10% of the capacity of a human brain. However, it consumes 100 megawatts, which is enough power to light up the entire city of Recife, whereas the human brain will consume the equivalent of two LED lamps,” he explained.

At any rate, Maia concedes that this doesn’t mean the impact on the labor market will be null, since some tasks have been or are being replaced by machines. “Repetitive physical activities will be automated faster,” believes McKinsey Global Institute partner Patrícia Ellen. “Data processing will be automated as well.”

Eduardo Magrani, a researcher at the Center for Technology & Society of think tank Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV), mentioned a few technological innovations and some of the risks they could bring. “Technology can be heaven or hell. It has a strong potential if well developed, but it poses risks such as lack of safety and privacy exposure,” he said. 

To José Carlos Cavalcanti, founder and advisor of Recife Digital Port, Brazil has the potential to be better positioned in the future and the present. “The natural resources of the country are relegated to the second tier. There’s a lot of technology in the exploration of commodities,” he said.

Ellen, from McKinsey, said some governments are already worried with the future unemployed professionals and are looking into solutions, like universal basic income. She also mentioned that in a few years, the population’s life expectancy will be close to 100 years. “The mechanics of studying, working and retiring will need to be reconsidered. Those at 65 years old will do what after retiring?”, she asks. 

Lastly, Silvio Meira, professor and scientist and one of the founders of CESAR, instigated the audience and concluded: “There’s work in the future because the future will be a lot of work.”


The president of the Arab Chamber said that the event marked the beginning of the organization’s partnership with CESAR. “It’s a partnership that will yield good results when it comes to innovation, technology and the future. We will open our house for this type of discussion,” he pointed out. 

CESAR’s chief business officer Eduardo Peixoto said his organization was very well received by the Arab Chamber and highlighted the location of the auditorium, in the new Arab Chamber headquarters. “We discussed the future of work at Paulista Avenue, the heart of São Paulo. It’s the ideal place for discussing the topic,” he said. 

*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum and Sérgio Kakitani