By Steve Coulter – Technology is transforming the world of work, but social democrats and others appear unsure how to respond. Progressives embrace change but want technology to benefit the many and not just the few who develop, own or exploit it. Trade unions, moreover, must confront the impact of IT and automation on work as it’s the jobs and conditions of their members that are on the line.
What, then, is a ‘progressive’ approach to the ‘new’ economy?
Research into the labor market impact of ‘digitalization’ falls into three categories. The first tries to assess its impact on total employment by quantifying the number and type of jobs at risk. It has contributed to a surfeit of scare stories in the media about ‘robots taking your job’. The fear animating this is that automation and smart computers will eliminate millions of jobs, condemning people to drudgery or idleness.
There is ample evidence of accelerating shifts in employment patterns due to the replacement of formerly well-paying factory and service jobs by robots and algorithms and the emergence of new forms of economic organization mediating the worker-employer relationship. We are seeing a ‘hollowing out’ of the labor market whereby high and low skilled work is increasing at the expense of medium skilled work, particularly where this involves performance of routine tasks. more>