The Governor of the Bank of England recently cast a rather gloomy vision of the future jobs market. Calling it the “fourth industrial revolution”, Mark Carney predicted that the rising influence of technology in the workplace would lead to the destruction of 10% of British jobs, equivalent to 3.2 million jobs.
Mr Carney doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to predictions though. Before the EU referendum, the central bank governor claimed a vote to leave could lead to a ‘technical recession’. However, the UK economy has continued to grow (at an average rate of 1.4% in the final quarter of last year), unemployment recently reached a 40-year low and wage growth is at a three-year high. But is Mark Carney right to now forecast a “period of technological unemployment, dislocation and rising inequality”?
Reasons to be cheerful
The World Economic Forum says otherwise. According to its latest report, the rise of machines, robots and algorithms in the workplace will create almost twice as many jobs as it destroys by the middle of the next decade. The WEF report predicts the creation of 133 million jobs worldwide as a result of rapid technological advances, compared with just 75 million that it would replace.
Like the WEF, I remain much more optimistic about our future job prospects. This kind of positive mindset is necessary if we are to harness the true benefits of technology in a modern workforce. It comes down to a question of retraining current employees so they are better adapted to a tech-friendly workplace, while also reconsidering the skills we are teaching future generations of workers. Once again technology is helping to make this possible, with more remote learning courses available than ever before.
The job future is bright
New research by the Social Metrics Commission (SMC) found there are more than 14 million people living in poverty in the UK. By creating more skilled job opportunities, technology could be the solution to resolve the social immobility we currently face and could also unlock the potential of the present workforce.
Take my local borough, North Kensington, for example, where unemployment is double the national average. I firmly believe technology can help redress this imbalance. As such, I am supporting ‘Get into Tech’, a new initiative run by the non-profit Kensington and Chelsea Foundation which provides free coding courses for local residents. The course will help people in the area to learn new skills which will give them access to more and better paid career opportunities. Following the pilot scheme, the hope is to extend the coding course programme into other areas of the UK.
Mark is way off the mark
In his latest predictions about the future workforce, Mark Carney claimed that the “fourth industrial revolution has the potential to transform fundamentally the nature of both work and commerce”. It seems that finally we can agree on something. But when it comes to weighing up the extent of the negative impact technology will have and the benefits it will bring, I believe that Mark Carney is way off the mark.
New smart solutions should complement existing services rather than replace them. In this way, businesses can improve their overall efficiency and free up time to focus more on their customers and on creative roles rather than administration. Rather than fearing the rise of the machines, I would encourage business leaders to embrace technological change and the benefits it can bring to their workforce.