Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is warning that technology will displace “more than one-third of all men between 25 and 54” in the next 35 years.
“Job destruction caused by technology is not a futuristic concern,” he wrote in the Washington Post. “It is something we have been living with for two generations. A simple linear trend suggests that by mid-century about a quarter of men between 25 and 54 will not be working at any moment,” said Summers, now a Harvard professor.
“I think this likely a substantial underestimate unless something is done for a number of reasons,” said Summers, who also was an economic adviser to President Barack Obama and served as Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton.
“First everything we hear and see regarding technology suggests the rate of job destruction will pick up. Think of the elimination of drivers, and of those who work behind cash registers,” he pointed out. “Second, the gains in average education and health of the workforce over the last 50 years are unlikely to be repeated,” he argued.
“Third, to the extent that non-work is contagious, it is likely to grow exponentially rather than at a linear rate,” he said. “Fourth, declining marriage rates are likely to raise rates of labor force withdrawal given that non-work is much more common for unmarried than married men,” he said.
“On the basis of these factors, I expect that more than one-third of all men between 25 and 54 will be out work at mid-century. Very likely more than half of men will experience a year of non-work at least one year out of every five. This would be in the range of the rate of non-work for high school drop-outs and exceeds the rate of non-work for African Americans today,” he wrote.
"Will we be able to support these people and a growing retired share of the population?" he writes. "What will this mean for the American family? For prevailing ethics of self-reliance? For alienation and support for toxic populism? These are vital questions. Even more vital is the question of what is to be done?"
Summers is far from alone in his stark warning about the job market.
Newsmax Finance Insider Peter Morici recently warned that faulty government policies are often counterproductive to the jobs they’re meant to save.
Companies eliminate jobs due to factors like robotics and automation. Lawmakers have unveiled programs to preserve and improve jobs, but those ideas can fail despite the best of intentions.
Morici said a better approach is to prepare people for the jobs not easily replaced.
“The robotics and artificial intelligence revolution is all around us,” Morici wrote. “Tasks requiring complex manual dexterity have proven tougher to replace but automated checkouts are spreading, and robots are at the cusp of not just taking orders at McDonald’s but also grasping and handing you hamburgers, fries and soft drinks.”
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