Robots are cutting real wages rather than jobs, claims UK study Robots are cutting real wages rather than jobs, claims UK study

Robots are cutting real wages rather than jobs, claims UK study
30 Apr 2018

Robots and computers are undermining wages in the UK by simplifying jobs and turning skilled work into unskilled labour, a new report from Barclays has warned.

Written by more than a dozen of the bank’s executives, researchers and economists, it revealed that several careers have already been destroyed as routes to prosperity, according to The Telegraph.

Lorry drivers were once highly paid, thanks to the need for physical strength combined with the dexterity required to manoeuvre large vehicles. But power steering has removed the strength requirement, and rear-view cameras make reversing a juggernaut simpler. As a result, real wages have crashed.

Similarly, London’s black cab drivers have to learn The Knowledge, training hard to remember all of the capital’s streets in detail, by memory. But satnavs and apps such as Uber have led to a large influx of drivers who have not had to pass the test, driving down earnings for cabbies.

Other industries that will soon be affected include medicine, with even complex tasks such as surgery becoming simpler. "Surgeons already use robots widely in surgeries; microrobots can perform surgeries at microscopic levels (still under the direction of a human) that surgeons cannot manually perform," the report pointed out.

While human judgment was still essential, the study warned that it “might become less so with the development of machine learning platforms in the medical field. With the development of machine vision, machines could also be better equipped to make medical diagnoses".

Moreover, it could take many years before new technologies such as artificial intelligence become embedded enough in the economy that they help to boost productivity and wages once more. But so far, the impact has broadly been positive, the report suggested, with estimates that computer technology has created a net total of 15.8 million jobs over the last 40 years.

It added that economic growth had also been understated by around 0.75 percentage points per year as digital technologies were not properly measured.

Emma

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

Robots and computers are undermining wages in the UK by simplifying jobs and turning skilled work into unskilled labour, a new report from Barclays has warned.

Written by more than a dozen of the bank’s executives, researchers and economists, it revealed that several careers have already been destroyed as routes to prosperity, according to The Telegraph.

Lorry drivers were once highly paid, thanks to the need for physical strength combined with the dexterity required to manoeuvre large vehicles. But power steering has removed the strength requirement, and rear-view cameras make reversing a juggernaut simpler. As a result, real wages have crashed.

Similarly, London’s black cab drivers have to learn The Knowledge, training hard to remember all of the capital’s streets in detail, by memory. But satnavs and apps such as Uber have led to a large influx of drivers who have not had to pass the test, driving down earnings for cabbies.

Other industries that will soon be affected include medicine, with even complex tasks such as surgery becoming simpler. "Surgeons already use robots widely in surgeries; microrobots can perform surgeries at microscopic levels (still under the direction of a human) that surgeons cannot manually perform," the report pointed out.

While human judgment was still essential, the study warned that it “might become less so with the development of machine learning platforms in the medical field. With the development of machine vision, machines could also be better equipped to make medical diagnoses".

Moreover, it could take many years before new technologies such as artificial intelligence become embedded enough in the economy that they help to boost productivity and wages once more. But so far, the impact has broadly been positive, the report suggested, with estimates that computer technology has created a net total of 15.8 million jobs over the last 40 years.

It added that economic growth had also been understated by around 0.75 percentage points per year as digital technologies were not properly measured.

Emma

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

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