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The benefits of job automation are not likely to be shared equally

Shahid Shahiduzzaman and colleagues write in The Conversation (5.2.18) that the productivity gains which businesses get from automating some jobs aren’t being passed on to workers in the form of higher wages.

‘While companies might reap significant gains in productivity from automating certain jobs, this won’t necessarily lead to pay rises for everyone. The evidence suggests businesses might pass on the gains to some workers, but not to all.

‘Some 40% of all jobs are predicted to disappear with automation in Australia. The jobs most likely to go first will be those that can be easily codified, those that are repetitive, simple, structured or routine: think of jobs in manufacturing or those that involve form processing or driving a vehicle.

‘More than three decades ago, the economics Nobel Laureate, Robert Solow wrote that: …you can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.

‘At the time Solow’s comment created intense discussion, especially in the context of the spread of technology. But it has recently been challenged.

‘Now we are starting to see the effect of automation everywhere and especially in productivity and economic growth statistics. It’s expected that automation will make a A$2.2 trillion boost to productivity in Australia between 2015 and 2030. But whether productivity gains will be redistributed equally, remains highly questionable.’

Women are less likely to be replaced by robots and might even benefit from automation

Fabrizio Carmignani writes in The Conversation (17.5.18) that women have less to fear than men, and probably more to benefit, from the advent of robots in the workplace.

‘Research shows women are better positioned than men to resist the automation of work and possibly even benefit from it.

‘Women are overrepresented in industries that require high levels of social skills and empathy (such as nursing, teaching and care work), where it would be difficult to replace a human worker with automation. Women in advanced economies also have, on average, higher levels of education and digital literacy, giving them a comparative advantage in a labour market that is continuously transformed by technological innovation.

‘The fear that robots could one day wipe out most of human labour is likely unjustified, as discussed in several studies. In fact, the risk of digitalisation varies considerably across jobs, depending on what tasks and skills are involved.’

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