Stories

SaveSave story

A respite from the robots (but a retraining emergency)

An automated car production line at the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Russia (HMMR) car manufacturing plant in St Petersburg. Photo: Peter Kovalev / TASS via Getty Images

Leading economists are increasingly scaling back the most apocalyptic forecasts of job losses resulting from the new age of automation. In a major report, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the research and policy grouping of the world’s richest nations, says 10% of U.S. jobs are at high risk of vanishing to automation — much lower than most prior forecasts.

Why it matters: The benchmark for such scholarship is a landmark 2013 study by two Oxford University economists, who said automation could wipe out 47% of American jobs. So, to the degree the new report is a better reflection of the future, it's good news for American workers. 

But there's still trouble ahead: The OECD economists arrive at a relatively high number of overall jobs at risk — about 38% of American jobs. They say that just 10% will be entirely vaporized, while about 28% will be transformed into new positions requiring a clutch of new skills. 

  • In order for that 28% of workers to keep those jobs, they will need to undergo retraining.
  • A paradox: Workers with the least-automatable jobs are far more willing to undergo training and new formal education than those whose jobs are at risk.
  • "Workers in fully automatable jobs are more than three times less likely to have participated in on-the-job training, over a 12-months period, than workers in non-automatable jobs," the study says.  

A front-page Financial Times article about the study today notes (subscription): "The report shows that worries about 'massive technological unemployment' are to some extent overblown ... Instead the risks are of 'further polarisation of the labour market' between highly paid workers and other jobs that may be 'relatively low paid and not particularly interesting.'"

  • That aligns with remarks last month by David Autor, an MIT economist, who told Axios that people ought to focus less on how many jobs will be wiped out, and more on how much current and future jobs will pay.

Another red flag: Such studies don't have a stellar record for accuracy, says Andrew McAfee, a leading MIT researcher and co-author of "The Second Machine Age," tells Axios: "I am not disparaging this report, but the track record of predicting job growth and job losses is poor."

  • The bottom line: "There will be lots of [job] destruction and lots of creation," McAfee said. "That's what we know from periods of technological change as profound as this one."
Michael Sykes 8 hours ago
SaveSave story

The U.S. has a massive shortage of truck drivers

Freight trucks parked in a parking lot
Freight trucks parked in a service center parking lot. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Retail shipping rates across the country are rising due a U.S. shortage of 51,000 truck drivers, projected to rise to 100,000 by 2021, USA Today reports.

The details: New regulations on the freight industry restricting the hours drivers can work without a break are reducing interest in the job. Plus, baby boomers are retiring from the truck driving business and millennials have been unwilling to replace them.

Haley Britzky 22 hours ago
SaveSave story

The EU and U.K. want to be front and center on AI research

Theresa May visits an engineering facility.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May visits an engineering training facility in Birmingham. Photo: Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty Images

The EU and U.K. both announced major investments in artificial intelligence research this week, with more than 50 tech companies contributing to a £1 billion deal in the U.K., and the European Commission announcing it would be allocating €1.5 billion to AI research until 2020.

The big picture: The U.K.'s deal, as detailed in a government press release, will include funding for "8,000 specialist computer science teachers, 1,000 government-funded AI PhDs by 2025," and development for a "prestigious global Turing Fellowship" program to attract top talent. Per the release, the U.K. will also be developing "a world-leading Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation," to emphasize ethical standards with AI research. The EU's deal also includes laying out clear ethical guidelines by the end of 2018.