Don’t be. A growing number of economists and academics are asserting that the lingering malaise in global labor markets — and the unexpected gap between productivity gains and real wage growth — has structural roots that transcend cyclical factors, even those outsized ones caused by the 2008 credit crisis.
Until recently, the consensus explanation for the maddeningly slow improvement in employment was placed squarely on the well-documented damage that banking crises usually inflict on a nation’s economic health. But according to Oxford economists Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, an even more powerful force may also be at work: computerization.
Since the dawn of the computer age in the 1970s, productivity has climbed steadily — as reflected in soaring stock prices — while real wages have stagnated. Though other factors also are involved, the gap between output and income appears consistent with the effects of new technologies on the economy and labor force.
In their scholarly paper “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerization?,” Frey and Osborne posit that 47% of total U.S. employment may be at risk of being automated over the next 20 years. The authors note that “wages and educational attainment exhibit a strong negative relationship with an occupation’s probability of computerization.”
Some tasks once thought beyond the scope of machines have yielded to automation. Google now has “mapping” cars that are fully autonomous. The authors rank each of 702 occupations according to the probability that they will suffer losses due to computerization over the next 20 years.
For a thought-provoking and broadly discerning take on the very nature of change, upheaval and disposability, read Dr. Gerald Stein’s blog entry on the subject. A retired psychotherapist, Stein writes with uncommon erudition and sensitivity on what it’s like to live in a disposable world, now and in ages long past. You’ll be enlightened — and deeply touched.