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2024 – Industry 4.0: a global North, global South perspective

Deadline for articles submission: 15 June 2023

Coordination: David Flacher, Juan M. Graña and Cecilia Rikap

More than ten years have passed since the term “Industry 4.0” (I4.0) was coined in the Hamburg fair in 2011. Since then, a somewhat consensual definition has emerged referring to the digitalization of manufacturing as a convergence between information and production. Within I4.0 several different technologies are integrated such us big data driven AI, IoT, automation, etc.

Nevertheless, Industry 4.0 has sprung several debates. On the one hand, large number of scholarships have researched on the technological novelty of industry 4.0. While optimists tend to show it as a radically new model (Schwab, 2016) which heralds a new stage in production (Xu et al., 2018), others have shown its incremental nature regarding ICTs and lean production (Dosi & Virgillito, 2019; Lee & Lee, 2021). One could also refer to more fundamental critiques, which consider that flexibility might derive from platforms, as specific forms of organisations, rather than from “sophisticated production technology” (Butollo & Schneidemesser, 2021).

In any case, in the last decade I4.0 is becoming a reality for many manufacturing firms, sectors and regions. Moreover, public policy has been built on this concept in most of the Global North and South.

In this scenario, the objective of this issue is to publish theoretical and empirical research aimed at understanding the impact these broadly defined technologies have on production, employment, and income. We are specially interested in papers that deal with international differences in the impact of this technologies.

This special issue might complement the special issues already published by the REI on that topic: “Industry 4.0: Current Issues and Future Challenges” (Cézanne et al., 2020), in 2020, in particular by raising some of the following questions:

To what extent has I4.0 transformed the productive landscape of a certain region or sector?

Are I4.0 technologies applied in a standardized manner, or does it reflect corporate, labour, or regional idiosyncrasies?

To what extend do I4.0 transformations accelerated/deepened previously assessed trends or diverge from them?

How is I4.0 affecting labour’s skills, roles, power, or incomes?

How are unions, the State or social partners working I4.0 and to what extent does this modify its implementation?

Are there differences between I4.0 implementation in Global north or Global south locations? What is the explanation behind those differences?

Deadline for submission: June 15, 2023

Submission: rei-specialissue[at]


Butollo, F., & Schneidemesser, L. (2021). Beyond “Industry 4.0": B2B factory networks as an alternative path towards the digital transformation of manufacturing and work. International Labour Review, 160(4), 537-552.

Cézanne, C., Lorenz, E., & Saglietto, L. (2020). Exploring the economic and social impacts of Industry 4.0. Revue d’économie Industrielle, 169, Art. 169.

Dosi, G., & Virgillito, M. E. (2019). Whither the evolution of the contemporary social fabric? New technologies and old socio‐economic trends. International Labour Review, 158(4), 593-625.

Lee, J., & Lee, K. (2021). Is the fourth industrial revolution a continuation of the third industrial revolution or something new under the sun? Analyzing technological regimes using US patent data. Industrial and Corporate Change, 30(1), 137-159.

Schwab, K. (2016). The Fourth Industrial Revolution: What it means, how to respond.

Xu, L. D., Xu, E. L., & Li, L. (2018). Industry 4.0: State of the art and future trends. International Journal of Production Research, 56(8), 2941-2962.

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