IPPR Think Tank Warns: Robots Could Lead to Greater Wage Inequality, Not Mass Unemployment

By Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA[CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

According to new research, the rise of robots will bring with it greater inequality instead of mass unemployment.

Concerns of automated machines taking the place of humans have prompted many people to predict that humans will soon become obsolete. However, analysis by the IPPR think tank warned that it is more likely to increase pay inequality and that less well-paid, low-skilled jobs are more likely to become automated.

Matthew Lawrence, an IPPR senior research fellow, stated: “Despite the rhetoric of the rise of the robots, machines aren’t about to take all our jobs. While technological change will reshape how we work and what we do, it won’t eliminate employment.

“A bigger challenge is arguably the effect of automation on inequality in the UK. Managed badly, the benefits of automation could be narrowly concentrated, benefiting those who own capital and highly skilled workers.”

The think tank estimates that jobs with wages that are worth £290bn per year – a third of all the earnings in the economy – are in danger of automation. This may be offset by an increase in wages elsewhere because of the higher output and productivity, which it forecasts to increase by between 0.8 percent and 1.4 percent annually while raising GDP by 10 percent by 2030.

However, the think tank said that these rewards must be fairly distributed.

Carys Roberts, an IPPR research fellow, stated: “To avoid inequality rising, the government should look at ways to spread capital ownership, and make sure everyone benefits from increased automation.”