The fourth industrial revolution will create lots of new jobs, but the retraining challenge for governments and companies will be immense
Job losses are undoubtedly one side of the AI coin, but AI has the potential to create jobs, too – lots of them. Indeed, it’s already doing so. According to the Royal Society, 58,000 data science jobs are being created every year in the UK alone, and it’s difficult to find qualified people to fill them.
Bruce Klafter is vice president, CSR at Flex, the hi-tech manufacturing company that is introducing automation in Nike’s supply chain. He says: “If we don’t create a workforce with enough skills, we’ll all be scrambling for qualified staff.” So, rather than struggling to support people replaced by robots, we may be struggling to find people with the skills to manage them.
Whether such jobs will be on offer to Asian factory workers at risk of redundancy-by-robot is a moot point, of course. Klafter acknowledges that some disruption is possible, but insists that, when automation is under way in Flex’s own factories, “We always look at the social impact, along with manufacturing savings, and try to ensure our model allows for the costs of redeployment, retraining and upskilling”, and even “anxiety costs” among the workforce.
Right now, he insists, the problem is more one of a labour...