Globalisation and the automation of work

Trump, trade and technology Michael Roberts blog post 10/12/2016

The biggest reason Trump — or anyone else — can’t bring back home these manufacturing jobs is because they have been lost in large part to the success of efficiency. Manufacturing output in the US was at an all-time high in 2015. Over the past three-and-a-half decades, manufacturers have created more than seven million jobs while producing more stuff than ever.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reported in The Manufacturing Footprint and the Importance of U.S. Manufacturing Jobs that “If you try to understand how so many jobs were created, the answer that you come up with over and over again in the data is that it’s not trade that caused that — it’s primarily technology,”…Eighty percent of increase jobs were not replaced by workers in China, but by machines and automation. That is the first problem if you slap on tariffs. What you discover is that American companies are likely to replace the more expensive workers with machines.”

What these studies reveal is what Marxist economics could have told them many times before. Under capitalism, increased productivity of labour comes through mechanisation and labour shedding i.e. reducing labour costs. Marx explained in Capital that this is one of the key features in capitalist accumulation – the capital-bias of technology – something continually ignored by mainstream economics, until now it seems.

Mark Carney: ‘Every technological revolution mercilessly destroys jobs well before the new ones emerge’

The World Economic Forum (WEF) believes we are in the midst of a “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” with robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) transforming economies around the world. WEF estimates that 5 million jobs will be created by these forced by 2020.

Roscoe Lecture: Mark Carney (full speech on YouTube) Also full speech as a pdf file.


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