With U.S. unemployment remaining stubbornly above 7 percent and job growth anemic, many have latched on to a compelling explanation: “the robots are taking our jobs.” In other words, a “neo-Luddite” narrative has taken hold. According to this line of thinking, high productivity driven by increasingly powerful IT-enabled machines is the cause of U.S. labor market problems, and accelerating technological change will only make those problems worse. There’s only one flaw in this narrative: it is completely wrong and not supported by data, scholarly evidence or logic. This report analyzes the “robots are killing our jobs” arguments, shows how they are constructed on faulty analysis, examines the extensive economic literature on the relationship between employment and productivity, and explains the logic of how higher productivity leads to more jobs. We show that more technology benefits not just the economy overall, but workers: more and better technology is essential to U.S. competitiveness and higher living standards. The claim that increased productivity eliminates jobs is misguided speculation.
Are Robots Taking Our Jobs, or Making Them?
No More Railing Against iPhones
It makes no sense to rail against iPhones. Instead we should focus our efforts on developing the game changing, next generation energy innovations that will allow clean energy to cost less and perform better than fossil fuels. And let’s be clear, to do that Information Communications Technology must be a major component of our innovation strategy. Advocates and policymakers must accept this reality if we are to fix the climate challenges we face.
Waiting for Onshoring
To listen to most discussions of U.S. manufacturing these days one would not be faulted for believing that we have turned the ship of decline around, that production jobs are coming back and that the on-shoring good times are finally here. Unfortunately this storyline does not hold up to critical analysis.
Singapore Looks to a National Productivity Strategy to Maintain Growth
Singapore has a remarkable history of economic growth, proving doubters wrong. Currently they are pursuing a range of deliberate policies to help private industry increase productivity and keep the small nation competitive and growing.
“Fab Lab” Bill Would Stimulate Manufacturing Innovation
Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL) introduced The National Fab Lab Network Act of 2013 (H.R. 1289), which would create a federal charter for a non-profit organization called “The National Fab Lab Network” (NFLN). NFLN would act as a public-private partnership whose purpose is to facilitate the creation of a national network of fab labs and serve as a resource to assist stakeholders with their effective operation. As ITIF writes in Fifty Ways to Leave Your Competitiveness Woes Behind: A National Traded Sector Competitiveness Strategy, there are several additional steps policymakers should take to foster the maker movement in addition to supporting Congressman Foster’s Fab Lab bill.