Over the past 20 years, digitalization has been transforming the contemporary job market, unleashing fear among workers for the future of their jobs. Many day-to-day activities have been likewise transformed by technology and digital economy – ranging from Uber replacing taxi, Airbnb replacing hotels or robots replacing blue-collar manufacturing. Some predictions suggest that digitalization and robotization will cause job losses of as much as 50% of all jobs over the next few decades.
New research, however, argues that these predictions are pure fear-mongering and that in reality the Internet is actually creating more job opportunities than it destroys. These jobs are also better paid and less physically demanding than their predecessors. This view also suggests that the technology-driven job creation is not limited to tech hubs but it is also moving fast to provincial cities and is even reaching to the regions with traditional industries such as steel, coal and farming.
The Internet and technology reduce distances. By making it possible to access the world in a few clicks, the Internet lowers barriers to entry and gives provincial and rural dwellers new opportunities to engage and reach the international markets. The sharing economy also permits marginalized populations to (re)join the workplace while digitalization also enables personalized production, opening the opportunity to repatriate lost factory jobs from Asia to Europe.
However, the full benefits of the sharing economy and technology-driven growth will only be realized if the right policies are implemented. The key policy will be to enable and facilitate the digital labor revolution. Policy makers will therefore have to resist giving into the current interests who want to protect their incumbent privileges. This approach should speed up the process of creative destruction in order to raise living standards for all.
‘The Internet and Jobs: A Giant Opportunity for Europe’ – Discussion Paper by William Echikson – Center for European Policy Studies (EPC).
(The Discussion Paper can be downloaded here)