Up-skilling and down-skilling simultaneously

A recent analysis of Japanese jobs by an international team from the Nomura Research Institute (NRI) says hat 50% of Japanese jobs will be lost to automation by 2035, 47% of American jobs and 35% of British jobs.

What should we make of these dire forecasts?  Nothing. At least most people won’t.  Most people are not inclined to think 20 years forward, still less when it might be uncomfortable.  Such is the likelihood of astonishing innovations these days that almost anything night be possible in 20 years.  There are only two groups of businesses that can be confident about 20-year forecasts — those selling food and those selling oil and gas. Their products can’t be more basic and both will be as much needed in 20 years as now.

All that some people are worried about are their jobs and their jobs now.  By this we mean the steady 1% or 2% of jobs every year which disappears in every advanced country due to automation and are never adequately replaced.

Politicians and government-friendly economists say that automation actually produces more jobs.  That’s true at present in the advanced countries.  Redundant workers get other lower-paid jobs. Employers of such realise that many people are so desperate for jobs that they can even change full-time jobs to part-time jobs paying only for time actually being worked.  Thus more people are having to work in two jobs, sometimes even three. Meanwhile the number of those in mid-life without work are taking themselves off the register as available for work so this number is steadily growing also.

This is the reason behind the increasing number of jobs in this country and America in recent years — as though they are all products of significant new sectors. But this intermediate state of affairs won’t last much longer unless both countries can somehow produce new labour-intensive sectors. Unfortunately the only ones that can be foreseen — medicine and education — require candidates of a much higher level of education than is available. All advanced countries are down-skilling (for a majority) and up-skilling (for a minority) at the same time,

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