Robots aren’t stealing all our jobs, says the World Bank’s chief economist

robot 2019__

(Unsplash, 2019)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming, Senior Writer, Formative Content


The job market has not been heavily impacted by the rise of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) – not yet, at least. Despite dire predictions of wide-reaching job losses, the World Bank’s chief economist says there’s no reason to think robots will replace humans any time soon.

“This fear that robots have eliminated jobs – this fear is not supported by the evidence so far,” Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg said in an interview with Bloomberg.

This particular fear is, of course, not a new one. In the early years of the 19th century, a band of textile workers in Britain – the Luddites – took up a campaign of civil disobedience and unrest in the face of creeping industrialization and automation of their industry. While their grievance was related to wider economic challenges than merely the use of technology, most of us are familiar with their cause, whether we consider ourselves latterday Luddites or not.

But the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has ushered in a new wave of concern. This was brought into sharp relief by the publication of a study from Oxford University which said, “according to our estimates, about 47% of total US employment is at risk” from automation.

Image: PwC

PwC’s prediction was less stark – a 3% risk of job losses in the early 2020s rising to 30% by the mid-2030s. What this perhaps highlights is that automation is not going to be defined by a single step-change in the way things are done. Rather, it’s likely to be a series of constant, iterative refinements; as the technology improves, the scope for it to automate new job functions will grow.

“We need new ways to invest in people and to protect them, regardless of their employment status,” the World Bank’s President Jim Yong Kim writes in the foreword to The Changing Nature of Work, the Bank’s 2019 World Development Report. “With two billion people already working in the informal sector – unprotected by stable wage employment, social safety nets, or the benefits of education – new working patterns are adding to a dilemma that predates the latest innovations.

“Investing in human capital is not just a concern for ministers of health and education; it should also be a top priority for heads of state and ministers of finance.”

Waves of disruption to jobs will call for resilience and preparedness.

Image: PwC

Whether those predictions will be borne out is yet to be seen, but there is little question that the future of work is one where change will be the most significant influence. The World Bank’s Changing Nature of Work report is a clarion call to governments to rise to the challenge of that transformation.

For when the World Bank’s Koujianou Goldberg talks of no evidence of job losses, she is looking at the overall picture; the extent of automation’s effect will differ from region to region and from country to country. The share of industrial employment dropped by more than 10% over the past two decades in countries including the UK, Spain and Singapore.

This has been mostly as a result of the use of robotics and automation in the manufacturing sector, which has displaced large numbers of workers. In some cases, those former manufacturing workers have found employment in the service sector. But there are also pockets of left-behind communities in parts of the developed world, where several generations of families are adjusting to life without work.

The New York Times columnist and Columbia University lecturer, Thomas Edsall, wrote recently that automation was hitting what he refers to as “Trump Country” particularly hard. “One of the most striking developments in recent decades is the ongoing decline in workforce participation among men, from 88.7% in July 1947 to 68.7% in September 2010.” Men without college degrees are more likely to be affected, he writes.

Meanwhile, as parts of the developed world have seen a 10% fall in the overall share of industrial employment, the reverse has been true elsewhere. In Vietnam, for example, industrial jobs accounted for around 9% of employment in 1991 but had grown to 25% by 2017.

It is perhaps no surprise that in many parts of Europe as well as in the US, there has been a resurgence of pro-nationalist, protectionist thinking and ideology as people worried for their economic security gravitate to what sounds like the most promising solutions to the challenges they face.

As the World Economic Forum’s founder and executive chairman Professor Klaus Schwab writes in the 2018 Global Competitiveness Report, “With the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), humanity has entered a new phase. The 4IR has become the lived reality for millions of people around the world, and is creating new opportunities for business, government and individuals. Yet it also threatens a new divergence and polarization within and between economies and societies.”

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Guterres holds ‘focused and frank’ informal discussions over future of Cyprus

Traditional knowledge at ‘core’ of indigenous heritage, and ‘must be protected’, says UN Forum

Europe and UN form bulwark against ‘might makes right’ worldview, EU foreign affairs chief tells Security Council

Can cybersecurity offer value for money?

Venezuela: MEPs call for free and fair elections in the crisis-torn country

Political solutions ‘prerequisite to sustainable peace’, Lacroix tells Security Council

These 11 EU states already meet their 2020 renewable energy targets

Global warming: our responsibility

Climate change: cutting the good by the root?

On youth unemployment: unemployment is even bleaker for youth with disabilities

Record-high number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan: UN Report

2020 Blue Economy Report: Blue sectors contribute to the recovery and pave way for EU Green Deal

Militias force nearly 2,000 to leave Libyan capital’s largest shelter for internally-displaced: UNHCR

Constitutional Committee breakthrough offers ‘sign of hope’ for long-suffering Syrians

This is what you need to know about the Iran nuclear deal

EU budget: Regional Development and Cohesion Policy beyond 2020

Me and China

What do refugees really need from those who want to help? A refugee explains

ECB tied in the anti-monetary German ideology

10 ways COVID-19 could reshape offices

This crisis cannot be confronted with statistics

Three ways to improve your corporate culture in the #MeToo era

Nepal faces a crisis as COVID-19 stems the flow of remittances

UN climate panel says ‘unprecedented changes’ needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C

Is Data Privacy really safe seen through Commissioner’s PRISM?

Does it pay for cities to be green?

Trade: EU and 16 WTO members agree to work together on an interim appeal arbitration arrangement

Reimagining the future for skills: What we learned from young people

Children are still dying in Yemen war, despite partial ceasefire, says UNICEF chief

British PM May’s Brexit proposal remains obscure while her government unravels

Brexit must not put UK university research at risk

Brazil identifies a clear pathway for aligning its transfer pricing framework with the OECD standard

Spirit unlimited

GSMA Announces First Keynote Speakers for 2019 “MWC Los Angeles, in Partnership with CTIA”

Why education and accountability are important for developing countries?

Assembly of European Regions @ European Business Summit 2014: The European regions on the path to recovery

Why it’s good to turn your colleagues into friends

TTIP’s 11th round starts in Miami but EU-US businesses see no sunny side

‘Don’t forget Madagascar’s children’, UN appeals for long-term help as emergency worsens

Could a Digital Silk Road solve the Belt and Road’s sustainability problem?

Which countries get the most sleep – and how much do we really need?

Yesterday’s “jokes” and sarcasm by Digital Single Market’s Vice President Ansip on EU member states’ right to protect their telco markets

The 5 biggest challenges cities will face in the future

From DIY editing to matchmaking by DNA: how human genomics is changing society

Mergers: Commission approves the acquisition of Flybe by Connect Airways, subject to conditions

Why forensic science is in crisis and how we can fix it

US and Mexico child deportations drive extreme violence and trauma: UNICEF

5 steps businesses can take to protect air quality after COVID-19

ILO’s Bureau for Employers´Activities to publish new study on women in business and management

DR Congo: Ebola claims over 1,000 lives, Guterres commits ‘whole’ UN system, to help ‘end the outbreak’

How can impact investors balance the green energy equation?

New UN initiative to support financial systems that ‘work better for everyone, everywhere’

Deal on faster exchange of non-EU nationals’ criminal records

How our global battle against coronavirus could help us fight climate change

5G will drive Industry 4.0 in the Middle East and Africa

Putting a price on carbon will help New York state achieve a clean energy future

The entire Australian state of New South Wales is in drought

How do you get people to trust self-driving vehicles? This company is giving them ‘virtual eyes’

Mali: Presidential elections critical to consolidate democracy, says UN peacekeeping chief

EP stands up for democracy in Hungary during COVID-19

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s