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Publication on the digitalisation of enterprises

Team around Prof. Michael Böhm explores the role of the Covid 19 pandemic for investments in digitalisation technologies

One in ten companies invested in 4.0 technologies during the Covid 19 pandemic

Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, only every tenth company invested additionally in computer-supported, intelligent so-called 4.0 technologies of office and communication equipment, for example by purchasing cloud computing systems. This is shown by initial analyses of the new "Arbeitswelt 4.0" company survey conducted jointly by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), the ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research and the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), which was published on Thursday.

Above all, companies that had already gained experience with 4.0 technologies before the pandemic made further investments in office and communication equipment due to the corona. Of the nearly 70 percent of establishments with no prior experience, only 2.5 percent made pandemic-related investments in 4.0 technologies, compared to 24.8 percent of the nearly 20 percent of establishments with some prior experience and 27.3 percent of the just over 11 percent of establishments with extensive prior experience. On average, there was a pandemic-related increase in the share of 4.0 technologies of 2.6 percentage points for all establishments. Here, this corona-induced digitalisation boost amounts to 1.7 percentage points for establishments with no prior experience, 2.9 percentage points for establishments with some prior experience, and 4.0 percentage points for those with extensive prior experience: "The digital divide between the enterprises has deepened as a result of the Corona crisis," notes Britta Matthes, head of the research group "Occupations in Transformation".

Priority was given by the companies to investing in technologies that enable employees to work in a home office. Accordingly, the corona-induced digitisation push was significantly stronger in companies in which the work that had to be done could be done to a greater extent in the home office. While the share of 4.0 technologies increased by an average of 1.7 percentage points with a low home office potential due to the corona, it increased by twice as much on average with a high home office potential. If companies with a high home office potential already had experience in digitalisation, the share of 4.0 technologies increased even six times more due to the pandemic.

The results are based on initial analyses of the second wave of the IAB-ZEW-IZA Working World 4.0 Survey, a representative company survey funded by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of almost 3,000 companies surveyed between August 2021 and June 2022 on their investments between 2016 and 2022. The study is available at: