Robotics

UN report says robots threaten two thirds of jobs in developing countries

UN report says robots threaten...
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In the past, the United Nations has considered the threat posed by weaponized AI, but now the body is looking at a more mundane, but still important, robot invasion. A report from the latest UN Conference on Trade and Development has outlined how the increasing use of industrial automation is impacting jobs in developing countries, and what strategies may help in overcoming the problem.

Robots taking over human jobs has been a concern for decades, but those concerns generally focus on developed countries. The report points out that developing countries in Africa and Latin America may be at greater risk of having their industrialization slow down, since the increasing use of robots is eating into the low-cost labor advantage that developing countries have traditionally held. Up to two thirds of those occupations may be at risk.

Another issue is the trend of "reshoring." Functioning as opposite of offshoring, reshoring sees companies move their labor operations back to developed countries, to be carried out by robots or automated systems. While it has the potential to disrupt developing countries from industrializing, the report notes that reshoring has so far been slow-paced, and hasn't undermined the continued offshoring.

A counterintuitive solution may actually be to introduce more robots. If developing countries had a sizable low-skilled workforce, comprised of both humans and robots, it might make them a more attractive option than other countries. Combining the two may actually create a better workforce than either human or robot alone, and mixing in other automation technologies, like 3D printing, might also help countries keep a competitive edge.

With developing countries hoisting themselves up by embracing digital technology, the report suggests that developed countries could lend a hand by improving their own work conditions. Better worker benefits could stimulate the economy, leading to increased demand for goods and boosting the manufacturing opportunities for developing countries.

Source: United Nations Conference for Trade and Development, report (PDF)

8 comments
oldguy
So in the future stuff will be made and delivered and sold by robots. Maybe a day will come when the CEO and middle management will all be obsolete, the robots could also do those jobs, accounting is already on the way there. With all of us human beings unemployed the big question will be....who will have money to buy all this stuff that is being made. And what will they do with it...send it straight to the landfill?
habakak
Nope. People have always been afraid of this. Today more people work than every before and we produce more than ever before and we use more machines than ever before. AI is not going to change this. People adapt. New needs are created and thus new jobs. An actual robot that can move and do what a human does is a very long ways off. An AI that can think like a human is much more imminent, but it still won't be aware and understand more than just the task it is executing. Either way, humans will adapt.
Bob Flint
Not likely to replace a person laboring in Africa... simple cost the human paid a few dollars per 10 or 12 hour day, the "effective robots" are still very expensive 10's of thousands of dollars, last at best an hour or two. Even the useless "Roomba" costs hundreds of dollars and lasts an hour at best while still not able to clean in corners. Yeah right robots swinging hammers setting up drywall....
ezeflyer
Another solution proposed by left and right is a Universal Basic Income. Let the robots do the work and the people have more free time to enjoy life. Of course, we would need to go from oligarchy to direct democracy first.
Stephen N Russell
More jobs lost in 15 years due to Automation.
centaury11186
habakak, with the current capitalist model, the way companies improve profit minimizing costs is cutting base jobs, not caring if this increases unemployment. So, in the future could happen two things: 99% of humans would be unemployed because companies will always employ the lowest or zero cost to maximize profit (and the few that remain in the companies will be overexploited like today) or, like ezeflyer suggested, it´s implemented a Universal Basic Income so the robots do the work and the people have more free time to enjoy life...Which one of the above has more chance to prevail?
Aross
Hey "oldguy" I'm with you. I've seen the many changes caused by automation and most are not for the best. One salary used to be enough to live on and raise a family. Over time this has become impossible. Greed and automation has eliminated and/or downgraded jobs so that the incomes of 2 people working oodles of overtime is not enough to cover basic living expenses. We see the effects in the form of young people, recent high school and university grads working for minimum wages because the traditional jobs that these folks would normally slide into are gone or automated. Jobs for humans is not only about money but self worth and respect.
LordInsidious
So a couple of these to grow food, clean, fix each other and all I'll need is energy (like solar and wind) and material to print and I don't need a job anymore. Great!