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.”

Advertising

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

What you need to know about the Sustainable Development Impact Summit

Judges urge Security Council to serve interests of all UN Member States

‘World’s deadliest sea crossing’ claimed six lives a day in 2018: UN refugee agency

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Safeguarding civilians, strengthening Ebola response in DR Congo, marking Fistula Day, updates on CAR and Syria

Germany and Europe prepare for Trump’s America

Overseas investment falling, developing countries largely unscathed: UN trade agency

5G networks: to slice or not to slice?

‘The welfare of the Libyan people’ the UN’s sole agenda for the country, says Guterres in Tripoli

MEPs call for a reduction in pesticides to protect bees

Commission goes less than mid-way on expensive euro

This start-up is making a palm oil alternative from used coffee grounds

Eurobarometer survey: Majority of EU citizens positive about international trade

Wednesday’s Daily Brief: Syrian detainees, Zimbabwe hunger crisis, Kabul attack, Mexico disappearances, new tech to feed the world

Main results of Foreign Affairs EU Council, 16/07/2018

Future of EU farming: MEPs push for modern common policy with fair funding

Does Indonesia have the world’s most complicated elections?

MWC 2016 LIVE: BlackBerry acquires Encription, talks Microsoft and health

‘Break the cycle’ of disaster-response-recovery, urges top UN official, as death toll mounts from Cyclone Idai

Sustainable investment is on the rise – here’s how to connect the dots

Why we need artists who strive for social change

How cultural understanding can help in the cultural shock

The creation and maintenance of smoke-free public spaces in the UK

Privatization as a symptom of health inequity

Reform of road use charges to spur cleaner transport and ensure fairness

YOUTH RIGHTS AT RISK FROM RISE OF EXTREME-RIGHT AND POPULISTS IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

State aid: Commission approves €790 million Croatian guarantee scheme for companies with export activities affected by coronavirus outbreak

TTIP fight round 6: last chance for the negotiators to finally open up as they touch the Brussels ring

Draghi drafts a plan to donate more money to bankers, the era of ‘money for nothin’ is flourishing

This company grows crops inside, stacked on top of one another

This is how we inspire young people in the Middle East to join the fight against climate change

Africa-Europe Alliance: European Commission committed to a sustainable African agri-food sector

Lagarde’s metamorphoses, not a laughing matter

EU regional differences betray an unjust arrangement

Teenage girl’s death sentence spotlights Sudan’s failure to tackle forced marriage, gender-based violence – UN rights office

Here’s how data can shine a light on financial crime

10 million Yemenis ‘one step away from famine’, UN food relief agency calls for ‘unhindered access’ to frontline regions

Governments and non-state actors need to take urgent action to meet Paris Agreement goals

World Food Programme accesses Yemeni frontline district for first time since conflict began

2014 will bring more European Union for the big guys and less for the weak

The future of energy in Puerto Rico is renewable

6 young leaders who are improving the state of the world on International Youth Day

How to keep our cities cool as temperatures rise

UN mission in DR Congo appeals for calm as violent protests continue

WHO coronavirus briefing: Isolation, testing and tracing comprise the “backbone” of response

Coronavirus: a common approach for safe and efficient mobile tracing apps across the EU

A European young student shares his thoughts on Quality Education

A week to decide if the EU is to have a Banking Union

Bacterial resistance: the significant worldwide problem

Gas pipeline in the European Union. (Copyright: EU, 2012 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Ferenc Isza)

EU Investment Bank approves € 1.5bn loan for Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP)

So, what is your favourite Sustainable Development Goal?

3 things the G20 can do to save the World Trade Organization

Delivering masks across borders: EU Single Market protecting citizens’ health

Yes, together we can make a change! YO!Fest and EYE 2016

Missile strike kills at least 12 civilians, including children, in Syria’s Idlib: UN humanitarians

Will AI make the gender gap in the workplace harder to close?

This mobile laundry gives homeless people free showers and washes their clothes

Greece bailout ends but with no substantial effect on citizens’ life

Half the population of Yemen at risk of famine: UN emergency relief chief

MEPs propose measures to combat mobbing and sexual harassment

World Cancer Day: Here’s how perceptions about the disease differ around the world

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