Back from the IMD conference: “what is the future of work?” by David Autor, Ford Professor of Economics, MIT to answer this question. This article “Technology of the future: the end of the worker” is the second one of a series of 2.
In the first article “New technologies = job-killers?”, we explained how new jobs are created because of the evolution of technology. The outcome was quite positive.So is there nothing to worry about?
“Technology progress will likely deliver rising productivity but there is no certainty that the fruits of this bounty will reach the typical worker.
Worry #1: the work is polarizing
Since the 80s, the specialized works (such as technical and managerial jobs), as well as commodified jobs (such as health aids, security and recreational), are growing although the middle-skills jobs (such as production work, office, and sales) are shrinking as they have been highly automated. So yes our workers should be worried!
Worry #2: the earnings inequality vs. our study
In the U.S., nowadays an employee with a graduate degree has a double salary vs 1963 while an employee who dropped out high school receives the same salary than in 1980! So a significant rise but not for everybody! Here again not at the advantages of the workers!
What should we do NOW?
“We should raise skills at the pace of the technological advancement in the right fields, with the right salary!
Worry #3: the earnings inequality vs. productivity
In the U.S., from 1948 to 1973, all workers were compensated at the same rate that productivity. From 1973, despite the linear increase of the productivity, the median workers were not compensated the same way even if the average did. That means a lot of compensation differences and so inequality!
Worry #4: productivity is slowing down in most rich countries after 2004!
Why? we are not sure about the answer.
My hypothesis is the following: we invested too much in technologies which were not giving the expected Return-On-Investment. In addition, we cut on our people forgetting that they have the knowledge and they are the one creating value because of their brainpower.
What should we do NOW?
“We should invest much more in Human Capital (not only the physical one!)
Worry #5: addressing labor scarcity!
In 2020, 30% of the population is more than 65 years old and is expected to be 48% in 2050! The consequence is that many countries will face persistent shortages in service and care jobs as the population is aging. Japan has the golden palm for this challenge.
Let’s have a Japanese break with solutions already undergoing in Japan (English speakers – do not worry about the French):
I believe a French yellow vest will faint watching it …
The conclusion so far
The challenge ahead is no scarcity of jobs: there will be plenty of work to do. But the job quantity does not guaranty the job quality. And the new technologies do not guarantee productivity growth or shared prosperity!
“We overestimate our machines. We underestimate ourselves. Both errors lead to complacency. The future will not take care of itself!
That is what we will find out in our next article with Professor Autor.
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