Krugman: Technology Revolution Will Hurt Those Even With Higher Education

Tuesday, 18 Jun 2013 09:43 AM

By Michael Kling

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Having a higher education won't help you anymore in your job, writes New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

Conventional thought holds that technology eliminates jobs for less-skilled workers, but increases demand for more highly educated workers and eventually increases living standards.

But now, highly educated workers are just as likely as are less-educated workers to be displaced. "And pushing for more education may create as many problems as it solves," Krugman notes.

Editor's Note:
 
Economist Warns: ‘Money From Heaven a Path to Hell.’ See Evidence.

He points to a recent report from The McKinsey Global Institute that lists a dozen major new technologies that may be "disruptive" for workers and their industries.

"Even a quick scan of the report's list," Krugman says, "suggests that some of the victims of disruption will be workers who are currently considered highly skilled, and who invested a lot of time and money in acquiring those skills."

For instance, watch out for "automation of knowledge work," he states, where software will do work once done by college graduates, and robots will handle more manufacturing and could also replace some medical professionals.

"Education, then, is no longer the answer to rising inequality, if it ever was (which I doubt)."

We could be facing another industrial revolution, a time when many workers lost their jobs to machines.

Although mechanization improved British living standards after a couple generations, many workers were clearly hurt, he notes. "And often the workers hurt most were those who had, with effort, acquired valuable skills — only to find those skills suddenly devalued."

Some workers in 18th century England protested against new textile machines taking over their jobs, and woolworkers in 1786 asked how they would support their families while they learned new skills how they could be sure they would not again lose their jobs to more new machines.

Current workers and students should be asking the same questions, Krugman says. They should wonder what would happen when they go into debt to acquire the skills, only to find those skills are no longer needed.

To preserve a middle class, Krugman advocates a strong social safety net, with guaranteed healthcare and a minimum income.

"And with an ever-rising share of income going to capital rather than labor, that safety net would have to be paid for to an important extent via taxes on profits and/or investment income," he writes.

Technology is indeed destroying jobs, conclude academics at MIT.

Recent slow employment growth, stagnant incomes and increasing inequality are due to advances in computer technology, improved industrial robotics and automated translation services, they told MIT Technology Review.

Because of new technologies, the researchers see dismal prospects for many types of jobs in manufacturing, clerical, and retail work as well professions such as law, financial services, education and medicine.

Editor's Note: Economist Warns: ‘Money From Heaven a Path to Hell.’ See Evidence.

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