There has been a growing sense of alarm in policy circles that a coming wave of technological innovation will lead to mass unemployment. These fears are unfounded. The next wave of technological innovation will not only provide a desperately needed boost to productivity and wages but also lead to new job creation. But that doesn’t mean no one will be hurt. There are always winners and losers in major economic transitions, so policymakers should focus on providing more and better help for those who are dislocated to successfully transition into new jobs and new occupations. But how?
On February 20th, 2018, ITIF hosted an expert panel discussion about the realistic outlook for technology-driven disruption in the labor market and practical policy solutions to better equip workers with the tools, skills, and support they will need. This discussion coincided with the release of a major new report proposing a set of guiding principles and a detailed policy action plan to upgrade America’s workforce-training and adjustment policies for an era of significant technological progress and change.ITIF President Rob Atkinson, the report’s author and panel moderator, began by describing the current state of the US workforce and economy and how it is poised to handle the next wave of technological innovation. According to Atkinson, the US is facing unprecedented stagnation saying “last 10 years have been the slowest rate of the US productivity growth probably since the founding of the Republic”. This coincides with the rise of a suite of new technologies like machine learning, AI, autonomous systems, robotics, blockchain, and IoT. Atkinson says we need to figure out how to raise productivity by integrating these new technologies into our economy and workforce.
Atkinson introduced Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who offered his take on the report, highlighting the need for targeted regional development systems. Alden further stressed the importance of state-level programs and strengthening the relationship between public and private sectors. The panelists agreed that a full employment economy, increased investments in R&D, and workforce training programs would start a positive trickle-down effect on the lower end of the labor market. Moreover, the panelists agreed that we are going to realize the American dream of continuing progress and increasing standards of living, then we need to stop stroking fears of a looming “tech-apocalypse”. Instead, these fears need to be addressed through effective labor market adjustment policies aimed at helping workers transition into and better navigate the new labor market.
Panelists then addressed questions from the audience on what policymakers can do to support the U.S. workforce successfully navigate this economic transition. For more information, you can read the report which contains ITIF’s detailed policy action plan to upgrade America’s workforce-training and adjustment policies for an era of rapid technological progress and change.
Follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #ITIFworkeradjustment.