Does automation really mean more job losses?

Despite fears that automation could result in job losses and poverty, a new report from the World Bank has now shown that, so far, the impact it’s having globally is still small. In the latest effort to assess the effects of new technologies on employment levels, the report looks at the nature of work in the future.

This is different to previous studies, which mostly forecast that automation will result in more losses than will be created. Across the world, a rising number of industries are beginning to replace low-paid jobs with machines. This has led to the opinion that “humans will be replaced by machines” altogether in some jobs.

However, while many economies have seen losses in industrial jobs in the last two years, there have been advances that have, overall, made up for those losses. And although the predictions were bleak, the World Bank confirmed in their report that the progress that’s been made – in East Asia in particular – have compensated for automation.

As noted by the organisation’s chief economist, Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg:“This fear that robots have eliminated jobs – this fear is not supported by the evidence so far. This is the fourth industrial revolution, there have been three before, and in each case we managed to survive so it’s not the case that machines completely eliminated humans. Eventually, we will adjust.””

In the future, it’s predicted that the advances in technology will eliminate a number of low-skilled jobs in some economies. But, as well as doing this, it will also create new roles which are more creative, or more productive. Additionally, there could be a shift in jobs between different countries.

For example, in the UK, Singapore and Spain, the number of industrial jobs went down in the last 20 years; in other countries like Vietnam, it rose in the same period. Furthermore, it’s predicted that there will a rise in the number of workers in the “gig economy”, and more demand for certain skills, like complex problem solving and teamwork.

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