How About that Looming Robotic Job Apocalypse?

Why we should worry about job quality, not quantity—or robot overlords

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Amid widespread debate about the impact of automation and trade imbalances on jobs, MIT economist David Autor says his concern right now is “not the quantity of jobs, but the quality of jobs” we’re producing. Developed economies have seen the rise of high-wage, high-education positions on the one hand, and low-wage jobs requiring little training on the other, he says. The middle, which formerly included well-paying manufacturing, laborer or clerical positions, has been hollowed out by a number of factors that include technological advancements and job loss to manufacturing juggernauts like China. Those on the bottom rung are increasingly “attending to the health and comfort of the affluent.” At the same time, the global middle class has expanded with the rapid rise of China. It’s clear that today, global trade is creating winners and losers, says Autor.

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