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Do we need to choose between Automation and Jobs?

The HBR writes an interesting piece, citing McKinsey data, on the job-disruption of automation and how to handle this.

Productivity has been one of the major themes of our Expert Series since its inception. In advanced economies productivity growth has stagnated worryingly, and the demographics of these countries are not boding well for growth going forward.

Fortunately, Automation and Advanced Robotics come to the rescue, giving the global economy a productivity boost. The question is of course; will this disrupt the workforce? From the HBR:

No less significant than the jobs that will be displaced are the jobs that will change—and those that will be created. New research by the McKinsey Global institute suggests that roughly 15% of the global workforce could be displaced by 2030 in a midpoint scenario, but that the jobs likely created will make up for those lost. There is an important proviso: that economies sustain high economic growth and dynamism, coupled with strong trends that will drive demand for work. Even so, between 75 million to 375 million people globally may need to switch occupational categories by 2030, depending on how quickly automation is adopted.

No small feat; hundreds of millions of people need to change jobs, meaning they need to be re-educated, likely at higher levels as the physical labor will be done by the machines. Countries everywhere will face great challenges to respond to these changes. The HBR posits:

Our view is that we should embrace automation technologies for the productivity benefits they will bring, even as we deal proactively with the workforce transitions that will accompany adoption. The tradeoff between productivity and employment is actually less than it might seem at first sight, since the GDP bounce that productivity brings will raise consumption and hence labor demand, as it has always done in the past. This effect will be stronger and faster if the gains in value added turn into income in the hands of those who are likely to spend it. Broadly distributing income gains will then translate productivity growth into GDP growth.

The HBR then lists three priorities that will help countries through the transition:

First, a much sharper focus on skills and training.

Second, we should take another look at making the labor market more fluid,

The third priority should be a reevaluation of income and transition support to help displaced workers or those struggling with transitions to new occupations.

Please find the full article here, its definitely worth reading in its entirety.

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