The digital age will free us up not only for leisure activities but also to take on caring roles that can only be filled by humans
The Bank of England economist Andy Haldane warns today that “large swathes” of current labor will disappear as AI takes over. For a man who lives and breathes statistics, large swathes are a poor percentage. These jeremiads attended the invention of computers, combine harvesters, spinning jennies and probably iron-age axes. But no one gets on the Today programme for predicting that AI might be good news.
How is it then that elsewhere in the news, we hear of people frantic for staff? There are currently 90,000 vacancies in social care and 24,000 in nursing. A chronic labor shortage in British social services has risen from 7% six years ago to 11% today. Education is suffering likewise. Employers across the health, construction, agriculture, travel, and hospitality sectors are screaming that Brexit heralds an employment disaster, as the EU migrant tap is turned off.
Economists obsessed with manufacturing statistics would do better to welcome AI as releasing workers into the experience economy. They should discuss how we are going to pay for them, especially those concentrated in the public sector. They should stop grabbing easy headlines by encouraging those now suffering a Trump/Brexit retreat into chauvinist job protectionism.
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