The rise of the robots

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Technology and progress usually go hand in hand and there is nothing wrong when technology leads to economic development. But sometimes, technology hurts certain areas of our economic system and it may be unavoidable. Experts have been talking a lot about the rise of the robots in relation to human resources. Simply put, robots will soon be replacing many of the jobs being done currently by humans. This spells doom for many people if they don’t learn to catch up and adapt, and do it soon.

New research shows the alarming rate at which robots are taking the jobs of humans and “forcing down wages”. MIT’s Daron Acemoglu and Boston University’s Pascual Restrepo published a study that said, “Each robot in the US economy reduces employment by 5.6 workers, and each robot added to the work force per 1,000 human workers causes a 0.25-percent to 0.5-percent drop in wages.”

For now, these are the figures for the US labor market, which we know are also relevant for the Asian markets because these countries are also gaining speed in terms of technological advancement. Factor in the export industry and the outsourcing business worldwide and you’ve got a global economic phenomenon that is likely to hit many countries and the income of its citizens. Experts went on to further say that this trend will likely continue—there is no way to stop automation.

The researchers predict negative effects on “virtually every occupation”, probably with the exception of managers and those jobs that are concerned with providing human service based on empathy: physical therapy, social work, care giving, teaching and the like. For sure, the first to be affected are routine manual occupations, blue-collar workers, operators and assembly workers, and machinists and transport workers.

In the local context, the Philippine education system has plenty of work to catch up on. First of all, the schools need to encourage more students to take up courses that are robot-proof, offer more of these in the universities and colleges, and provide a stronger career guidance program for the students. The schools need to review their curriculum and offerings so the country’s future workers will be armed against technological unemployment caused by the advances in artificial intelligence.

The local tax systems may have to be reviewed, as well, following Bill Gates’s proposal to tax robots and then use the funds to support the displaced workers and help them transition to other robot-proof jobs. Industries that are less affected need to be strengthened and supported by the government, and those robot companies must also be required to put up programs for the workers they displace.

Some people are even talking about the possibility of some countries putting some of their citizens on welfare or implementing a guaranteed basic income for families. We hope it does not reach this point, especially because countries like the Philippines will definitely have a difficult time implementing such economic measures. The best thing to do for now is to recognize the threat, strategize and start putting up safeguards for people’s jobs and income.



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