There is a lot of talk in the media about robots taking over our jobs, and it feels as if Europe is heading for big changes amid the march of the machines.
In August, IT researcher Gartner released its 2015 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies report, which assesses technologies’ relevance to actual business use. More than 2000 are examined, and at the peak of the hype cycle are autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things, machine learning, advanced analytics and smart advisors: all things that are moving people and businesses to a more digital state of being. With all the major automotive companies working on autonomous vehicles, increasing activity in the development of the connected home, and greater use of sensors, 3D printing and robots in the factory, life is looking increasingly digital for everyone.
Is this a bad thing for jobs in Europe? Economists at Deloitte LLP have looked at the relationship between technology and job creation in the UK from 1871 to 2011. Their conclusion is that, overall, technology has been good for employment creation. They identified that technology replaces employment in some industries (mainly those where muscle power is required) and complements and increases employment in others that are more focused on brain power and non-routine tasks. It creates industries that can become major employers in their own right. It also increases and shifts consumer discretionary spending to areas that create job opportunities.
In another study, Deloitte identified that over the past 15 years in the UK, technology has led to the loss of 800,000 lower skilled jobs, but helped create nearly 3.5 million new higher skilled jobs. So perhaps the robots aren’t going to terminate our employment prospects, they are in fact going to expand them.
Douglas Clark is director of Location Connections, a site selection and FDI consultancy.