A new report published by the TUC argues that the economic gains from digitisation, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) should be used to benefit working people, for example by reversing policies to raise the state pension age.
The report Shaping Our Digital Future explores how the next technological revolution will impact on jobs and wages. Previous waves of technological change have not led to an overall loss of jobs, but have disrupted the types of job people do. And with the most recent wave of industrial change, rewards from higher productivity have gone predominantly to business owners, rather than being shared across the workforce through better wages and working conditions.
For example, in 1950 almost one in three workers worked in manufacturing, while one in 12 worked in professional and technical services. By 2016 these shares had reversed. But the jobs lost in manufacturing were not replaced by jobs of similar or better quality in the communities affected.
The TUC says that the government, business and trade unions must work together to mitigate disruption to working people’s lives, and to maximise opportunities for working people to benefit. And with two-thirds of the 2030 workforce already in work today, efforts must focus on ensuring that existing workers are equipped to deal with the change.
Unionlearn Director Kevin Rowan said:
This report highlights the need for workers to have the skills to take advantage of the new opportunities.”
Giving everyone the right to a mid-life career review, stepping up the investment in workplace training and introducing new life-long learning accounts supporting people through their entire working lives are some of the reports recommendations, and will mean working people will be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.”
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
With the UK failing to make productivity gains in the last decade, we need to make the most of the economic opportunities that new technologies are offering. Robots and AI could let us produce more for less, boosting national prosperity. But we need a debate about who benefits from this wealth, and how workers get a fair share.
We should look on the changes ahead as an opportunity to improve the lives of working people and their families.”