Thursday 22 March 2018

Half of all jobs could be lost to computerisation

A self-scan checkout in a branch of Ikea in Berlin, Germany
A self-scan checkout in a branch of Ikea in Berlin, Germany
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

IF you think unemployment is high here now, it could get a lot worse in the future.

New research has predicted about 49pc of jobs in Ireland are at risk from advances in computerisation. That's slightly higher than in the UK, but lower than in euro zone giants France and Germany.

The study by economist Jeremy Bowles, which was published by Brussels think-tank Bruegel, shows that we're below the European average which stands at 54pc.

Inspired by research from economists at Oxford University, Mr Bowles sought to calculate how many jobs were prone to technological advances across Europe.

He came up figures ranging from 40pc to more than 60pc, depending on the country.

That compares with the findings of a study published last September that found 47pc of Americans in 2010 ranked in the risky category, meaning their roles could possibly be automated over the next decade or two.

Mr Bowles pointed out that the latest research suggests that new advances in technology will primarily damage the low-skill, low-wage end of the labour market as tasks previously hard to computerise in the services sector 
become more vulnerable to technological advances.

In recent decades those working in clerical and manufacturing roles were most at risk. 
Northern European countries such as Ireland and UK have a computerisation risk level similar to that in the US, according to Mr Bowles, who works at the International Growth Centre based at the London School of Economics.

But the further away from this high tech core the higher the risk of job automation, he said.


Mr Bowles said it was unsurprising that those in peripheral economies such as Italy will suffer the most as developments in machine learning and mobile robotics will hurt low-wage, low-skill sectors previously immune from technological breakthroughs.

The effect may be moderated by the fact that such countries have historically adopted technology more slowly than their neighbours, he said.

"Though the first order concern in Europe is to tackle persistent unemployment rates, the second order concern of labour allocation cannot be ignored," he said

One answer is to develop training policies around directing people away from vulnerable sectors to higher skilled jobs, he said. (Additional reporting Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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