Hardly a day seems to go by without a new report on artificial intelligence replacing jobs. On Thursday, BT added the latest bad news, when the British telecom giant announced plans replace 10,000 staff with AI.
Predictions about the effect of automation on jobs across Europe to vary wild, but everyone agrees that major changes are inevitable. Now that the impact is already being felt, the need for government intervention is becoming urgent.
Here are five interventions they can take.
1. Staff retraining
The concept of a ‘job for life’ was disappearing even before AI’s relentless march into the workplace. We are getting more and more used to brushing up on our skills.
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Government policies can ease the transition. Italy, for example launched a new fund this week to help retrain workers. The country has earmarked €10 million to improve the skills of people whose jobs are at risk of being automated.
It’s not the biggest funding pot, but it’s a start.
2. Adjust education systems
In addition to upskilling the current workforce, governments must prepare students for the future of work.
To support them, analysts have recommended several education priorities. They range from STEM skills for technology jobs to soft skills that allow people to adapt throughout their working lives.
A popular approach prioritizes “21st century skills,” such as creativity, critical thinking, and communication. Another is creating highly specialized training. Finlandfor example, has launched a free online course on AI, because if you can’t beat the robots, you might as well work with them.
3. Wage Supplements
Technology doesn’t always replace jobs; sometimes it just lowers revenue. The rise of Uber, for example, has not reduced the number of taxis on our streets, but it has reduced the number wages of salaried drivers.
One way to limit loss of income is to improve wage supplements. The idea is to “make work pay” for those in low paying jobs can offer little more than welfare benefits. Providing supplements – like better childcare, higher income tax credits or payroll insurance for income lost to automation – can make their wages much higher.
It won’t be cheap, but it can still be cheaper than financially supporting the unemployed. It can also bring greater satisfaction and social benefit.
4. Creation of “good jobs”.
If workers are displaced by AI, governments can help them get “good jobs” to replace the ones they lost.
That says Harry Holzer, former chief economist of the US Department of Labor “Good jobs” should pay well, offer advancement opportunities and provide some security.
“Tax and subsidy policies for creating ‘good jobs’ can encourage employers to improve the quality of jobs,” Holzer said in a blog post for the Brookings Institution. “Mandates to employers can also be effective, although such mandates should not be so strict and costly that they are more likely to incentivize employers to automate (as a $15 minimum wage might do in low-wage regions of the US).”
5. Universal Basic Income
No list of responses to automation would be complete without a mention of the Universal Basic Income (UBI).
It’s a simple concept: each citizen receives a fixed fee, paid equally by the government, which is enough to support their base name. Proponents argue it can end poverty, improve well-being and redistribute wealth, while critics warn it is too expensive, widens inequalities and removes incentives to work.
Like it or not, the concept is gaining popularity all over Europe. A recent poll by YouGov found strong support from everyone seven European countries surveyed. Respondents in Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK were all more in favor of UBI than against. Sweden was divided, while France and Denmark expressed more opposition.
Are far from the only one option for Social Security, but it deserves a spot on this list. If you have a better idea — or just want ours — let us know through the usual channels.