Economists have long waved off the concern that robots are coming for jobs by reassuring those in white collar positions that the takeover will only involve blue collar jobs. As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, however, they are able to perform tasks that are still rather mundane but require some sort of cognitive function. This means that the jobs many experts promised to be safe, are now at risk, The Guardian reports, and lower-income areas will be the most vulnerable.
In fact, high-end consultancy Oxford Economics wrote a report titled How Robots Change the World in which they developed a “vulnerability score,” which highlights how poorer regions in the UK, USA, France, Germany, and Japan will be hurt more as automation continues to move into the workforce. On average, every hired robot takes away 1.6 jobs. In higher-income areas, it’s only 1.3. In lower-income areas, it’s 2.2.
“Our research shows that the negative effects of robotisation are disproportionately felt in the lower-income regions of the globe’s major economies – on average, a new robot displaces nearly twice as many jobs in lower-income regions compared with higher-income regions of the same country,” says the report. “At a time of worldwide concern about growing levels of economic inequality and political polarisation, this finding has important social and political implications.”
The tech industry is no stranger to inequity. Companies like Amazon have not only been criticized for the hand in creating the automation tsunami, but also for the unfit conditions their warehouse employees work in despite being a billion dollar company. As of 2018, Facebook only employs only 35, 587 people. To put that in perspective, Volkswagen, whose industry has surely seen its fair share of automation, employs 656,000.
The “great displacement” is not only impacting employee livelihood or opportunities for employment in a growing industry. The report claims that it will have wider-reaching, sociological implications: The regional inequalities that exist within countries, such as England’s north-south divide, could be exacerbated by the rise of the robots.”