Impact of Job-Stealing Robots a Growing Concern at Davos

Impact of Job-Stealing Robots a Growing Concern at Davos
February 02 11:20 2017 Print This Article

(RTÉ News) – Open markets and global trade have been blamed for job losses over the last decade, but global CEOs say the real culprits are increasingly machines. 

Business leaders gathered at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos relished the productivity gains technology can bring this week.

But they also warned that the collateral damage to jobs needs to be addressed more seriously.

From taxi drivers to healthcare professionals, technologies such as robotics, driverless cars, artificial intelligence and 3-D printing mean more and more types of jobs are at risk.

Adidas, for example, aims to use 3-D printing in the manufacture of some running shoes.

“Jobs will be lost, jobs will evolve and this revolution is going to be ageless, it’s going to be classless and it’s going to affect everyone,” said Meg Whitman, chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Some supporters of Donald Trump and Brexit may hope new government policies will bring lost jobs back to America’s Rust Belt or Britain’s industrial north.

But economists estimate 86% of US manufacturing job losses are actually down to productivity, according to the WEF’s annual risks report.

“Technology is the big issue and we don’t acknowledge that,” Mark Weinberger, chairman of consultancy EY, said, arguing there was a tendency to always blame trading partners.

The political backdrop is prompting CEOs to take more seriously the challenge of long-life training of workforces to keep up with the exponential growth of technological advances.

Over the last decade, more jobs have been lost to technology than any other factor, and John Drzik, head of global risk at insurance broker Marsh, expects more of the same.

“That is going to raise challenges, particularly given the political context,” Drzik, who helped compile the WEF report, said.

Compared to clamping down on immigration by tightening borders, dealing with the impact of technology destroying jobs is something that is perhaps even less easily controlled.

For while many advanced technologies remain more expensive than low- or medium-skilled labour in the near term, the shift is likely to accelerate as costs come down.

Technological advancements require governments, businesses and academic institutions to develop more educated and highly skilled workforces, executives in Davos said.

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