Digitisation will cost more jobs than politicians want to let us know about. What can be automated, will be automated – independent from industries and business models. It is time to face reality and to prepare our society for this fundamental transformation.
According to a very popular study 65 percent of the children who have their first day at school will work in jobs that do not exist today.
Of course, predictions with respect to the future development of employment are difficult by nature – and are usually misleading. Typical mistakes when making predictions are to extend past trends into the future without considering economical, social, political changes or new insights by research and science. But predictions often build the basis for political decisions and activities.
Politicians like to discuss which competencies are required for future job markets. Those discussions lead the attention of the voters into a pleasant field – away from the fear of loosing jobs into the beckoning theme of challenging, exciting new professions of the future.
Accordingly, politicians across the globe invest heavily into the field of digitisation. Just one example: The German government has just released the budget for 250 new academic positions in Berlin. They are part of the new Einstein center for digital future.
But digitisation is a political and economical dilemma. It is a kind of catch-22 without a solution: if governments do not want to invest in digitisation, their economy is in danger of losing technological competitiveness. However, every investment in digitisation enforces a process of job losses, which means in the long run decreasing buying power, lower consumer spending, less market demand and a shrinking economy. Perhaps we need to realise that our existing market model, which is based on realising economies of scale to improve efficiency is just outdated - due to digitisation.
It is therefore not a surprise that not all studies and predictions are very optimistic. According to a recent study published by the The World Economic Forum approximately 5.1 Million jobs will get lost through digitisation until 2020. If this trend continues or even accelerates, we will see gigantic job losses within the next 15-20 years.
Different to the early times of digitisation, we have not seen a growing number of IT and telecommunication jobs for the last 10 years. The number of IT and telecommunication jobs in most of the industrial nations are more or less constant. On the other hand, those countries have still the highest number of jobs in industries that are easy targets for digitisation, such as: transport, retail or the public sector. Just the loss of those jobs would lead to unemployment rates that no country would be able to deal with.
The popular assumption therefore, that more technology leads to more prosperity, could be suspended – now and forever, and we had better sooner rather than later, search for new economic models based on very different principles.