What can we do to mitigate the damage that automation may do to the workforce? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
When considering ways to mitigate the impact of automation, it's important to keep in mind that automation has distributional effects. For instance, workers in the middle of the skill distribution, such as clerical and factory workers, have been particularly hard hit, since they tend to be involved in routine work than is more easily automated. In contrast, lower-skill workers tend to do non-routine manual work, while higher-skill workers typically do non-routine cognitive jobs, and both types of work are more challenging to automate. As a result, while the share of employment of middle-skill workers has declined over the past 20 years, the share of employment in low-skill (e.g. gardeners) and high-skill jobs (e.g. managers, doctors) have increased.
So mitigating policies must be targeted to the group negatively impacted by automation. Policies facilitating retraining should clearly be a priority. But given the pace of technological change, workers and firms are often reluctant to engage in lengthy training programs, fearing that the newly acquired skills will be obsolete by the end of the program. So training programs should be streamlined and condensed to focus on the basics necessary to be quickly re-employed. In addition, licensing requirements for several jobs have increased over time in several states, discouraging workers from retraining. Ever increasing requirements should be reconsidered.
In addition, different jobs are often concentrated in different regions. So automation ends up having geographical impacts as well. In this context, one issue is that mobility has declined over the past 40 years. Policies that facilitate mobility would help those adversely impacted by automation.
Finally, it is also easier to change jobs in a growing economy, so keeping the expansion going is important. The evidence during and following the Great Recession indicates that skill requirements for jobs fluctuates with the business cycle. They tend to rise when the unemployment rate is high and it's easy for firms to find workers and fall when the unemployment rate is low and firms are struggling to attract talent.
This question originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter and Facebook. More questions: