Labor in the Age of Robots

Fears about the impact of technology on the labor market are nothing new. In the early nineteenth century, a group of English textile workers known as the Luddites worried that new technologies like power looms and spinning frames would cost them their jobs. They protested by smashing the machines.

Today, anxiety that new technologies could destroy millions of jobs is as high as ever. In the midst of a major employment crisis, technology continues to reduce the labor needed for mass production, while the automation of routine legal and accounting tasks is hollowing out that sector of the job market as well. The science of robotics is revolutionizing manufacturing; every year, an additional 200,000 industrial robots come into use. In 2015, the total is expected to reach 1.5 million. Adapting the labor market to a world of increasingly automated workplaces will be one of the defining challenges of our era.

Yet no country can afford to ignore the transformation. Globally, some 200 million people are unemployed, up 27 million since 2008. There is a critical need to anticipate coming technological changes and provide the global workforce with the education and skills needed to participate in the modern labor market.

Worldwide, one-third of employers surveyed complain that they are unable to find workers with the right skills for existing vacancies. Efficient paths from training and education programs to the world of work must be built, so that skills can be matched to market demand. Government programs must be strengthened, and employers and trade unions must assume greater responsibility for investing in skills. They also must consult more closely with educators and policymakers – discussions that should be informed by labor-market information, performance reviews, and the availability of employment services.

Whatever a country’s development level, investment in education and skills will increase the ability of its workforce to innovate and adapt to new technologies. Such investment can determine whether a country’s economic growth is broadly inclusive or leaves large segments of society behind. An abundant supply of workers who have been appropriately trained and can continue to learn boosts investor confidence and thus job growth.

In addition to training the labor force for an age of further automation, sustainable economies must offer protections for workers in good times and bad. The nature of a worker’s relationship with his or her employer is changing. People entering the labor market are increasingly finding only short-term or temporary contracts; often, they are forced to take informal work or emigrate for a job. These trends are exacerbating income inequality.

As a result, mitigation policies are necessary. Along with a robust system of unemployment benefits, social protections such as healthcare and pensions are essential for overall worker security and to ensure a healthy economy. And yet only 20Pct of the world’s population has adequate social-security coverage; more than half lack any coverage at all.

That is why the work of the International Labor Organization, which was established in 1919, is still relevant today. In a world of increasingly automated workplaces and eroding employee-employer relationships, the values encoded in the ILO’s labor standards are more necessary than ever.

The complex challenges facing workers worldwide will require complex solutions. In 2013, the ILO launched its Future of Work initiative, which seeks to identify and analyze incipient trends and provide a forum for discussion about what must be done to adapt to rapidly changing labor-market conditions.

Our world has changed vastly over the past century – and not only because of technology. By 2050, the global population will surpass nine billion. The number of people aged 60 years and over will have tripled. Three-quarters of the elderly will be living in what are now developing countries, and the majority of them will be women. These demographic shifts will further revolutionize the labor market, social-security systems, economic development, and the world of employment.

For all of the progress human society has made since the era of the Luddites, a simple truth persists: machines must strengthen, not weaken, our prospects for inclusive growth and broadly shared prosperity. We must ensure that the modern economy is a sustainable one, built on the principles of human dignity and the opportunity for decent work.

This article is provided to EBR by Project Syndicate.

Guy Ryder

Guy Ryder is Director-General of the International Labor Organization. 


  • Rodgerpielp

    cheapest levitra online
    buy levitra online
    order levitra online
    buy levitra online
    buy levitra online

    Rodgerpielp Sunday, 22 October 2017 04:28 Comment Link
  • Rodgerpielp

    where to buy generic levitra online
    levitra coupon
    buy levitra from germany
    generic levitra
    mail order levitra

    Rodgerpielp Saturday, 21 October 2017 23:40 Comment Link
  • HarlanClode

    buy levitra online australia
    levitra 20 mg
    buy levitra pills online
    levitra online
    buy levitra discount

    HarlanClode Friday, 20 October 2017 17:51 Comment Link
  • MatthewBlite

    cialis for sale in the us
    buy cialis online
    cheap cialis canada pharmacy
    generic cialis
    how to buy cialis in japan

    MatthewBlite Wednesday, 18 October 2017 18:04 Comment Link
  • BernardEnump

    cialis 20mg pills sale
    cialis generic
    cheap cialis europe
    cialis online
    cheap cialis in canada

    BernardEnump Monday, 16 October 2017 19:52 Comment Link
  • Davidram

    cialis discount prices
    cialis canada
    where to buy cialis in uk
    canadian cialis
    buy real cialis online

    Davidram Monday, 16 October 2017 01:17 Comment Link
  • JoshuaErano

    generic cialis sale
    cost of cialis
    cialis cheap prices
    generic cialis at walmart
    cheap cialis canada

    JoshuaErano Sunday, 15 October 2017 10:01 Comment Link
  • Haroldpew

    buy cialis online new zealand
    buy cialis online
    buy cialis uk cheap
    cialis on line no pres
    buy cialis euro

    Haroldpew Saturday, 14 October 2017 21:11 Comment Link
  • Stevenabelp

    is generic viagra available in the united states
    viagra australia
    buy real viagra online canada
    generic viagra
    mail order viagra generic

    Stevenabelp Saturday, 14 October 2017 15:02 Comment Link
  • Marionmum

    online prescriptions for viagra
    viagra pill
    viagra 100mg split half
    viagra pill
    how long until viagra is generic

    Marionmum Saturday, 14 October 2017 03:46 Comment Link

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.Basic HTML code is allowed.

Latest News

Ethiopia to Host the 4th International Coffee Conference

Ethiopia to Host the 4th International Coffee Conference

Ethiopia is set to host the 4th International Coffee Conference from March 6 – 8, 2016 in Addis Ababa at the United Nations Conference Center. Previous conferences were held  in England in 2001, Brazil in 2005 and Guatemala in 2010. Read more


UAE-backed Egyptian forces arrive in Eritrea...

ሰበር ዜና ብሄራዊ ባንክ ከነገ ጀምሮ የብር ምንዛሪ ተመንን በ15% እንዲገሽብ ውሳኔ አስተላለፈ፡፡ በተጨማሪም የገንዘብ ማስቀመጫ ወለድን ከ5% ወደ 7% ከፍ እንዲል ውሳኔ...
Follow EBR News on Twitter

Most Popular

  • 1
  • 2
Prev Next

The White-Box of Ethiopian Agriculture

The agricultural sector remains our Achilles heel, nonetheless, we remain convinced that agricultural-based development remains the only source of hope ...

Read more

For Whoever Has, to Him Shall be Given …

As the Ethiopian government seeks to transform the economy into one that’s rooted in manufacturing, the simplicity for local investors to access finance...

Read more


  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Prev Next

Shooting in the Dark: The Anomalies of Headhunting

The war for ‘heads’ – also known as talent – has been raging for many years and the manner headhunters ‘poach’ people is getting tougher ...

Read more

Understanding Chinese Investment in Ethiopia A Critical Evaluation of the World Bank’s “Chinese FDI in Ethiopia” Survey

The World Bank country office in Ethiopia, apparently in response to the request by the government of Ethiopia, has conducted a survey of...

Read more

Mitigating Growing Income Inequality: What Needs to Be Done

Rising income and wealth inequality in many countries around the world has been a long-term trend for three decades or more. But the atte...

Read more

View Point

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Prev Next

Delivering Life Insurance: The Untapped Market in Ethiopia

Modern insurance transaction in Ethiopia was started by an Egyptian Bank in 1905. According to Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce there were 19, 33 and 40 insuran...

Read more

Cut Throat: The Vicious Cycle of Price Based Competition in Ethiopian Insurance Industry

For most, it was imprecise how Ethiopian insurers would manage their prices devoid of actuaries. As most insurers know, premium has a more significant impact...

Read more

Headache When a Key Personnel leaves a Company in the Financial Sector

The financial sector in Ethiopia has undergone considerable changes in recent decades. The dramatic rise of new market players into the sector has vividly al...

Read more