New technologies and automation will not cause massive unemployment, Andrus Ansip, the European Commission Vice-President in charge of digital policy said, although he admitted that some jobs will be lost. “People who risk losing their jobs because of digitization need and deserve our help,” he told a gathering of manufacturing industry executives in Brussels (7 March).
Mr. Ansip said that job creation in the sector would buckle as a result of technological change. Companies will be looking for employees with specialized skills to operate automated machines and robots that replace low-skilled jobs. “In manufacturing, it is true that some jobs are disappearing but it is also true that the job skills we need for future manufacturing will be more high-tech as the economy grows,” he said. He further added that naturally “some people will lose jobs, some industries will lose market share.”
According to the data published by the Commission, only 3,6% of the EU workforce are technology experts and only 56% of Europeans have elementary digital skills. Mr Ansip remarks followed the pledges from British and American politicians to boost lagging manufacturing industries with various incentives to hire workers, including tax breaks. In Germany, a manufacturing powerhouse, the industry has shrunk by 19% between 1996 and 2012, compared to a loss of 33% in the US during the same period. The new US President Trump campaigned last year, promising to bring back lost manufacturing jobs. “We should not ignore the social risks involved,” he warned his electorate.