Report: Robots in the workforce are accelerating pay gaps for women and people of color
The Institute for Public Policy Research has released a new report that describes the positive and negative impacts of robotic workers on England workforces. The report indicates that an increase in robotic jobs to replace “low-skill” positions would likely mean wider pay gaps for women and minorities, because jobs available in the wake of the new robotic workforce will be of a higher skill (one can rightfully extrapolate these numbers to American workforces as well).
The report warns that unless there is a policy intervention, the inequalities of wealth, income and power are likely to increase as a result of automation:
Automation is more likely to accelerate inequalities of wealth and income than create a future of mass joblessness. Without policy intervention, the productivity dividends of automation could create a ‘paradox of plenty’, in which we produce more, yet it is less equally shared, as the benefits of technological change flow to the owners of capital and the labour market polarises… Technological change would make society richer in aggregate. However, capital-biased economic change would create a problem of distribution: those who can provide labour but do not own capital might have inadequate means of making a reasonable living as technological change puts pressure on wage income in certain sectors and shifts income to capital owners.
Additionally, the report cites technological advancement as the culprit in most of the decline of labor share in advanced economies over the last 40 years. This means that as technology advances it is commonly used to replace human labor, altering the way capital flows in industries. Capitalist economies are looking for ways to create more money, and if that means that there are those who must suffer as a result, those people are simply the cost of doing effective business.
The report closes with a challenge to society that should be heard and heeded as countries and companies undertake the new frontier of automating jobs and tasks:
The challenge of automation is therefore likely to be more about redressing the maldistribution of the dividends of technological change than a problem of production in which human labor becomes redundant. Society’s objective should be to manage and distribute the gains of higher productivity so that the benefits of automation are fairly and widely shared.