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The robots are coming – but for our money not our jobs

The robots are coming. That’s what we keep hearing. And because technology is displacing humans from the world of work, we need a universal basic income to replace earnings. Or at least, that’s the view of some, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

A Brookings paper out yesterday by MIT professor David Autor and Utrecht University professor Anna Salomons provides some solid evidence on what’s actually happening. Based on data from 28 industries across 18 OECD nations, the academics find that rather than destroying jobs, automation is creating them. But, and this is where it gets interesting…

“While automation has created jobs, enhanced the size of the economic pie, and increased total worker earnings, it has not raised the share of national income allocated to wages as rapidly as it has raised productivity.”

Put simply, automation has boosted economic growth, but the share going to workers has shrunk. A universal basic income is not the answer (for many reasons), but based on the Brookings findings, more generous benefit top-ups might be.