The not-so-dire future of work in the age of technology



The future of work is a hot topic nowadays. It has inspired a seemingly endless train of analyses, commentaries and conferences, and it featured prominently in recent annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. For good reason: new technologies - digitization, robotics and artificial intelligence - have far-reaching implications for employment. But, contrary to how the story is often framed, a happy ending is possible.


The debate often skews toward the melodramatic, foretelling a future in which machines drive humans out of work. According to some bleak estimates, 47 percent of jobs are at risk in the United States; 57 percent in the OECD countries; two-thirds in developing economies; and half of all jobs globally (about 2 billion).


Similar dire predictions of large-scale job destruction and high tech-driven structural unemployment accompanied previous major episodes of automation, including by renowned economists. But technological change acted as a powerful driver of productivity and employment growth.