Robots will steal your wages, but not your jobs, Barclays predicts
ROBOTS and computers are undermining wages by simplifying jobs and turning skilled work into unskilled labour.
Automation is spreading into office jobs and the services sector, meaning middle class careers and professions risk being undercut in a way never before seen.
It will squash pay packets severely for years or even decades to come, a new report from Barclays has warned.
Written by more than a dozen Barclays executives, researchers and economists, it said several careers have already been destroyed as routes to prosperity.
Lorry drivers were once highly paid – physical strength combined with the dexterity required to manoeuvre large vehicles, abilities and skills that were hard to acquire – but power steering removed the strength requirement, and rear-view cameras make reversing a juggernaut simpler. As a result, real wages have crashed. The average US trucker earned $38,000 (£26,000) in 1980, but only $46,000 now – but to keep up with price inflation, the wage should be several multiples of this.
Similarly London’s black cab drivers have to learn The Knowledge, training hard to learn the capital’s streets in detail, by memory. However, satnavs and apps such as Uber have led to a large influx of drivers who have not had to pass this test, driving down earnings for cabbies.
Industries soon to be affected include medicine, the analysts believe, with even complex tasks such as surgery becoming simpler. “Surgeons al- ready use robots widely in surgeries; microrobots can perform surgeries at microscopic levels (still under the direction of a human) that surgeons cannot manually perform,” the report said.
“Human judgment is still essential, but might become less so with the development of machine learning platforms in the medical field. With the development of machine vision, machines could also be better equipped to make medical diagnoses.”
It could take many years before new technologies such as artificial intelligence becomes fully embedded in the economy to the extent that they boost productivity and wages once more.
So far the impact has broadly been positive, the analysts believe, citing estimates that 15.8 million jobs have been created overall by computer technology in the past 40 years, counting those both created and destroyed.
Economic growth has been understated by around 0.75 percentage points per year as digital technologies are not properly measured, they say.
Rise of the robots: earnings are being driven down by technology usurping skill sets, a report claims