A gig solution to automation lead unemployment

 In Research

The last few years have seen a number of studies point to robots, AI, and automation replacing people’s jobs. A pivotal 2013 study by researchers at the University of Oxford found that of 702 unique job types in the United States economy, around 47% were at high risk of computerisation. This was backed up by similar findings in Australia suggesting 44% of occupations – representing more than five million jobs – were at risk over the coming 10 to 15 years.

Already, we are starting to see those changes take place: consider Amazon’s new robot-run supermarket that requires only 3 human workers. Unsurprisingly, Amazon’s choice to replace human workers received serious backlash. The concern many feel at this kind of innovation is not unfounded: according to a Mckinsey report on the issue, 375 million workers (about 14 percent of the global workforce) will need to change jobs or upskill. 

 

 

By 2030, 375 million workers (14% of the global workforce) will need to change jobs or upskill

 

Moreover, this change will not only affect low skill workers. The Mckinsey report expects that all workers will need to adapt, as their occupations evolve alongside increasingly capable machines. Some of that adaptation will require higher educational attainment, or spending more time on activities that require social and emotional skills, creativity, high-level cognitive capabilities and other skills relatively hard to automate.

But, this situation may not be so dire. While one kind of technology dissolves jobs, another kind of technology creates avenues for new jobs. The gig economy can serve to support workers affected by these changes in the workforce. The gig economy can foster fluidity, by matching workers and companies seeking their skills, and by providing a plethora of new work opportunities for those open to taking them. As a result, workers may find themselves with more flexible working lives, better opportunities to develop new or improve existing skills, and low-risk ways to enter into new career paths.  

The gig economy has a lower barrier to entry as there is less risk to the employer; the employer is only obliged to pay for a once off task while a permanent role carries the legal and remuneration costs of hiring and firing. Consequently, people who would not be able to secure a certain role permanently might be given an opportunity as a once off shift. The low bar to entry also allows people to use the gig economy as a means of testing career changes and developing different skills that might require formal education (and high financial burden) otherwise.

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