I was browsing through the goldmine for bad history known has /r/Futurology when I came across an article headlined “UN Report: Robots Will Replace Two-Thirds of All Workers in the Developing World”. This article plays into the biases of the middle-class non-economic college graduates that most futurologists are but has no evidence to back-up the claim and is written by someone who has no knowledge of developing economics link:https://futurism.com/un-report-robots-will-replace-two-thirds-of-all-workers-in-the-developing-world/
From recent reports, it may seem like automation only affects those in developed countries; however, a report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development recently noted the ways in which automation impacts those in developing countries—and it seems that it impacts these nations even more than the industrialised world.
No shit sherlock. The region where most people working unskilled physical jobs is the most vulnerable to automation, Who would have thought ?. Nobody outside of futurologist echo chambers believes that automation isn’t happening in the developed world as they follow the same path most developed countries followed a century ago. Almost 2/31 of people in the developing work in agriculture, a field that has already been automated in the west. This follows a pattern as most jobs in the developing world work unskilled jobs in agriculture and manufacturing that are far easier to automate than the service sector jobs more common in the developed world
The report explains, “The increased use of robots in developed countries risks eroding the traditional labor-cost advantage of developing countries.” It cites another report from the World Bank that states, “The share of occupations that could experience significant automation are actually higher in developing countries than in more advanced ones, where many of these jobs have already disappeared.”
The report this paper cites provides an interesting look into how increased automation might change the pathway for developing countries to industrialise but it relies on the idea that increasing automation is happening which has little consensus. The productivity paradox is still in effect and noted economist Robert Gordon has published a recent paper suggesting ” that the rapid progress made over the past 250 years could well be a unique the episode ” and even if it isn’t there is little evidence that this episode will kill jobs without creating new ones.
In short, this means that low-skill jobs in developing countries are more vulnerable, as these jobs could rather easily be done by robots, robots which would replace human low-skill labour in these countries. This translates to some staggering numbers: Two-thirds of all jobs in developing countries might be lost to automation.
As explained before 2/3 of all jobs in the developing world are in agriculture a field that could be easily automated. The destruction of agricultural jobs is almost always followed up by the creation of jobs in urban areas and is a well-studied aspect of developmental economics, not some new phenomena and the consensus is that the destruction of those jobs is necessary for a country to get richer
The report continues by stating that automation could cause economic activity, like the manufacturing industry, to be reshored to developed countries from developing ones. If you aren’t familiar with this term, “reshoring” is the act of bringing back domestic manufacturing to a country. It is already happening today, but according to the report, it’s happening at a slow pace.
Reshoring is an interesting phenomenon that has many examples but very little data. The purported fall off “American manufacturing output” never really happened and was based on stagnation in America compared to growth in the developing world. This also ignores the fact that even with robots, some labour is still needed and skilled labour is often cheaper there than it is in the west. Countries such as china are at the forefront of robotic investments as increasing productivity is the only way for a country to cross the gap between developing and developed.
This, of course, brings up a host of issues. How do we alleviate the impact that the robots/automation have in the developing world? How do we protect human workers and our economy from automation?
We don’t, increasing automation and productivity will only make the country richer as it is now able to produce more goods and more people are available to provide services. Automation of jobs in the developing world has been studied and the main solution appears to be supporting retraining of adults
According to the report, “outcomes will be shaped by policies.” In other words, nations need to start planning for the inevitability of automation and job loss now. To that end, the report advises countries to embrace the “digital revolution” through the changing of educational policies combined with “supportive macroeconomic, industrial and social policies.” Thus, we need to incorporate computers more fully into our education system and change, from the ground up, how our society functions.
The problem is that there seems to be no affordable way to include computers into the educational curriculum without creating huge problems as was demonstrated by the one laptop per child programs failure to improve outcomes. Using technology in education takes the money and lots of it. These are not solution but instead vague ideals that lack any implementation.
One social solution that could be introduced is Universal Basic Income—a guaranteed income that is given to all individuals regardless of employment status or economic situation. It is a system that is already being debated, as a host of experts in various industries is pushing for it. In fact, it is already being tested in Finland and other nations. Thus, in the near future, we can analyse its results and, if positive, rework our economic and social structures to accommodate it.
HAHAHAHAHAHHAHA, Implementing Basic income in the developing world. This is ludicrous solution that only applies to futurologist who seem to think any economic problem can be solved by BIG. BIG is solution tailor towards developing countries and would be ludicrously hard to implement and fund in the evolving world while solving none of the structural issues present in the economy.