In Advanced and Emerging Economies Alike, Worries About Job Automation



Richard Wike, Bruce Stokes | Pew Research Center

Across the globe, new technologies are transforming the nature of work. Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence are displacing jobs in manufacturing and, increasingly, in the service sector. And while automation may boost productivity and overall economic growth, there is a recognition that it will also disrupt the workplace, with repercussions for workers, employers, education systems and governments.

Average citizens see a revolution coming in the workplace, and they are concerned. As a new Pew Research Center study of public
opinion in 10 countries highlights, there is a widely shared view that the nature of work will likely be transformed over the next half-century,
though not everyone is equally convinced.

In some countries and economic sectors, of course, the transformation of the workplace has already begun. In South Korea, there are more
than 600 installed industrial robots for every 10,000 workers in manufacturing facilities. In Japan there are more than 300 and in the United States nearly 200. Profit maximization, and the relatively high cost of human labor, helps drive automation. The average hourly cost of a manufacturing worker is $49 in Germany and $36 in the U.S. The hourly cost of a robot is $4. How far will the use of
computers and artificial intelligence spread? The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that 14% of jobs in advanced economies could become susceptible to automation and another 32% substantially changed, affecting the lives of millions of workers.

In all 10 advanced and emerging economies polled, large majorities say that in the next 50 years robots and computers will probably or definitely do much of the work currently done by humans. In three countries – Greece, South Africa and Argentina – four-in-ten or more believe this will definitely happen.

And most believe that increasing automation will have negative consequences for jobs. Large majorities in each nation surveyed think ordinary people will have a hard time finding jobs as a result of automation. Relatively few predict new, better-paying jobs will be created by
technological advances.

Publics believe the responsibility for dealing with these challenges should be widely shared across key institutions and actors in society. Most tend to say that governments, schools, individuals themselves and, to a somewhat lesser extent, employers all have a lot of responsibility for ensuring that workers have the right skills and education to be successful in the future economy.

These are among the key findings of a Pew Research Center survey conducted in nine countries from April 30 to August 10, 2018, among 9,670 respondents. It also includes analysis from previous Pew Research Center surveys conducted in the United States in 2015, 2016 and 2017.


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