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Home News Technological turbulence and future jobs

Technological turbulence and future jobs

16 May 2014
Technological turbulence and future jobs

Long run economic growth depends on the application of new technologies that reshape production, adding new kinds of work to the economy. However, such reshaping inevitably exposes labour markets to a time of technological turbulence as many of the safe havens for low-skilled workers disappear.

Indeed, 47% of current jobs in advanced economies like the US are at risk of being automated in the next 20 years. This is the prediction of Carl Benedikt Frey & Michael Osborne from the University of Oxford. They argue that managing the transition into new work must therefore become a key priority for policymakers.

This creative destruction, however, does not imply the dystopian future for progressive politics that some fear ― one where the powerful forces of the market and technology are inevitably leading us to a more unequal society. As Alan Manning of the London School of Economics argues, the opposite is the case. The technological changes we are seeing - driven by, among others, Big Data, the Internet of Things, Robotics, Key Enabling Technologies, and Hyper Connectivity - mean that progressive politics is needed more than ever.

This point is further developed by the University of Leuven's Maarten Goos, who shows that the lesson from the advances in the 1950s and 1960s is the need for policies to safeguard equity and equality of opportunity. Disappointing job growth in the future is more likely to result from a lack of worker skills than from rapid technological progress.

In sectors like manufacturing, as Julie Madigan of the Manufacturing Institute points out, this will require agile government to tap into the movement towards boutique local manufacturing.

Finally, Peter Glover, Helen Beck, Vicki Belt & Duncan Brown from UKCES look ahead to the global labour market of 2030, which is highly competitive, more virtual and interconnected than ever before. They argue: "The workforce will be multi-generational, with four generations working side by side, older and more international. Women will play a stronger role in the workforce and technology will pervade work environments everywhere."

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