Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
The robots are rising, but probably not as fast as you think. That is one of the takeaways from a lengthy new McKinsey Global Institute report, “Harnessing automation for a future that works.”
This is the headline finding: “While less than 5% of all occupations can be automated entirely using demonstrated technologies, about 60% of all occupations have at least 30% of constituent activities that could be automated. More occupations will change than will be automated away.”
Or as Michael Chui, one of the report’s authors, told the Wall Street Journal: “Given that we will need the machines working and the people working to get economic growth, we should be worrying about mass redeployment rather than mass unemployment.”
But if we are going to successfully “race with the machines” rather than against them — and ensure a world of higher productivity and gobs of good-paying jobs — there is a big role for policy. Right now. And that’s what politicians should be tweeting about, not reworking old trade deals. A key section from the report:
While some governments may be tempted to look for ways to slow automation adoption, out of concern for possible employment effects, such moves could prove counterproductive, holding back productivity without protecting jobs durably.
Automation could exacerbate a skills gap, even as it touches all occupations. There is already a growing divide in income advancement and employment opportunities between high-skill workers and those who are low- and medium-skill. In the past two decades, there has been a clear pattern of consistent job growth for high-skill workers and little or no growth for low- and middle-skill ones. For example, in 1981, college-educated workers in the United States earned a 48 percent wage premium over high school graduates. By 2005, that premium had risen to 97 percent—in other words, an American college graduate earns almost twice as much as a high school graduate.
The growing gap between productivity and wages is not new, but automation could accelerate the process. In its 2016 report on automation, the White House noted that the trend toward skill-biased change brought about by computerization and communications innovations is likely to continue in the decade ahead as a result of artificial intelligence’s effects on the labor market. To address this gap, policy makers could work with education providers to improve basic skills through the schools system and put a new emphasis on capabilities that are among the most difficult to automate, including creativity, understanding human emotions, and managing and coaching others.
For people who are already in the workforce, they could intervene to help workers develop skills best suited for the automation age. For example, many economies are already facing a shortage of data scientists and business translators. Governments working with the private sector could take steps to ensure that such gaps are filled, with new education and training possibilities established rapidly and prioritized. They could also foster the growth of technology-enabled solutions for the labor market that improve matching and access to jobs, such as online talent platforms.
As automation reshapes the workplace, independent work could become increasingly important, and policy makers will want to address issues such as benefits and variability that these platforms can raise