Monthly Archives: December 2016

More research on automation

This paper: Arntz, M., T. Gregory and U. Zierahn (2016), “The Risk of Automation for Jobs in OECD Countries: A Comparative Analysis”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 189, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jlz9h56dvq7-en

Frey and Osborne published a paper in 2013 estimating that 47% of American jobs could be lost to automation in the next ten to twenty years. This paper is in response to that. These authors argue that it’s better to analyze jobs by tasks, rather than entire jobs, and that with most jobs, only some of the job can be automated. Their calculations indicate that only 9% of jobs are at risk, rather than 47%.

According to FO [Frey and Osborne], people working in the occupation “Retail Salesperson” (SOC code 41-2031) face an automation potential of 92%. Despite this, only 4% of retail salespersons perform their jobs with neither both group work nor face-to-face interactions.

You may already see the problem. They assume that jobs will remain when some job tasks (group work and face-to-face interactions) can’t be automated: that those un-automatable tasks are essential to the job. For example, shopping in person involves the salesperson doing a lot of things that robots can’t do. However, anyone who has shopped online knows that at least some of the time, those things don’t matter that much – you can read the reviews online to get equivalent service. (It depends on what you’re buying, of course.) For many jobs, there are tasks that robots won’t be able to do, but those tasks aren’t necessarily going to matter, either to consumers, or to employers who automate the jobs regardless of what consumers want.

So I suspect that their estimate of 9% of jobs lost to automation is an underestimate.

Regardless, in my opinion, we need a basic income now. We already have far too much precarious employment. I’m not sure what is going to happen in the future really matters.

Report: Working Without a Net: Rethinking Canada’s social policy in the new age of work

Two researchers from the Mowat Centre in Toronto have published a report on the future of Canada’s safety net, given current and likely future changes to the job market.

Sunil Johan and Jordann Thirgood: Working Without a Net: Rethinking Canada’s social policy in the new age of work.
webpage, pdf of actual report
(This is the report I linked to in the previous blog post.)

This report explores the implications of new technologies on Canada’s economy and labour market and the adequacy of current social programs and policies supporting workers. It proposes key considerations policymakers need to keep in mind as the nature of jobs evolves to ensure that they are designing policies that lead, and don’t lag, rapid changes to the nature of work.

Continue reading

CBC: Maybe robots aren’t the enemy, as jobs and economy surge

There’s an article on the CBC website today discussing the relationship between automation and the job market, including an interview with Sunil Johal, coauthor of a report posted on November 22 of this year. The issue is that automation may replace a lot of jobs. Other jobs will emerge, and there are some jobs automation is not able to do. On the other hand, the new jobs may not pay as well or as steadily (something that’s been going on for a while, from what I can see).

The article: Analysis | Maybe robots aren’t the enemy, as jobs and economy surge: Don Pittis. Economy must adjust as automation frees up workers to do other useful things.

The report, by Sunil Johan and Jordann Thirgood: Working Without a Net: Rethinking Canada’s social policy in the new age of work
webpage, pdf of actual report