Like every industrial revolution before it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4iR) will bring a wave of automation to our everyday lives. In the past, this has created a radical shift in the world of work and this revolution is no different. Common workplace practices are different to how they were ten or even five years ago.

Speakers at the CogX Artificial Intelligence (AI) conference – held in London this month – acknowledged that this shift in how we live our everyday lives can cause a lot of scares, with estimates for displaced jobs during the 4iR ranging from 10-50% [1]. After considering that 80% of the workforce of 2030 are currently in work, upskilling the labour market is a problem in need of a solution [2].

Andy Haldane, co-founder of Pro Bono Economics and Chief Economist at the Bank of England, may have an answer to this issue. His keynote speech at our 10th Anniversary Lecture explored how the 4iR will affect the third sector, and in turn how the third sector can support the workforce due to the effects of technological change.

Data from the Bank of England and Pro Bono Economics estimates that due to increased automation making its way into our working lives, it is estimated that by 2050 we will be working 25-hour work weeks creating a surplus of free hours [3]. A recent YouGov survey reports that 43% of people would volunteer if they had more free time, a view that was particularly strong among those aged 25-34. More than half of this age group also said that they were motivated by the feeling of benefitting society.

The third sector emerged due to the disruption caused by earlier technological revolutions. It has always been around to support people through times of economic and social change, and this time should be no different. Andy Haldane believes that the advent of the 4iR may leave people with more leisure time at their disposal and that they could and should be using this new-found freedom to volunteer in the third sector. This can help them upskill and further improve their wellbeing.

There is a precedent for unpaid work being valued by governments to upskill their workforce. Singapore has skills credits to allow their citizens to continually strive towards greater excellence through knowledge, application and experience. Finland has provided free AI courses for anyone in the world, which aims to not only teach people about the basics of AI but also the opportunities it has brought and can continue to bring.

This desire to engage in civic service is also likely to grow due to the rising demand for social skill sin the workplace, increasing the attraction of charitable activity as a means of nurturing those skills. By making volunteering a central feature of people’s lifelong learning, we can become a more prepared workforce in the wake of the 4iR.


[1] Haldane, A (2018b), ‘Ideas and institutions – a growth story’, speech available at

[2] CogX Panel: Future of Work & Impact on Society (2019)

[3] Haldane, A (2019) ‘The Third Sector and the Fourth Industrial, speech available at