miércoles, 7 de enero de 2015

ICTs: Good or bad for jobs?

There is a growing concern in the society about the impact of ICT usage in jobs. Some pieces of news and studies published has critically contributed to this feeling. On one hand, wages seem to go down since the beginning of the massive usage of computers in the 80´s. On the other hand, there are estimations of huge loses of jobs ahead in the next years due to computerisation. Nevertheless, due to the current economic conditions, it is difficult to identify which part of jobs and wages decline is the responsibility of computers and which part of the economic crisis.

The main risks for jobs coming from ICTs come from the ability of computers to reproduce human tasks at a cheaper price. This ability drives to process innovation and increasing of efficiency in every industry, which in turn decreases the need for human intervention in production. As it is shown in "The second machine age", this ability does not affect equally to all kind of jobs. If we classify jobs according with the level of skills that demand, both extremes of classification are safe. Only the jobs that demand a medium range of skills are seriously at the risk of disappearance in the near future. However, this safe situation will not last forever and the number of current jobs that would be easily reproduced by machines are called to grow.

If all the current jobs could be at risk sooner or later, the only way out is the creation of new kind of jobs. The creation of new kind of jobs depends only on one factor: the capacity of the companies to take advantage of computer abilities beyond the mere automatisation of processes. This capacity would drive to product innovations and the new products would require new human abilities, and therefore new jobs. For instance, the growth of e-commerce has had as a consequence the creation of new forms of packet delivery.

The jury is out. It would be hasty to conclude that ICTs are good or bad for jobs. The verdict will depend on the ability to compensate process innovation and product innovation.

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