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24 October 2018
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Firms will need greater government support © iStock

8 January 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal

Automation will produce significant productivity gains that will reshape specific sectors and occupations, says a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research’s Commission on Economic Justice.


However, the report states that in aggregate these gains are likely to be recirculated, with jobs reallocated rather than eliminated, economic output increased, and new sources of wealth created.


The critical challenge of automation is likely to be in distribution rather than production, suggests the report, and if the benefits are fairly shared, automation could help “build an economy where prosperity is underpinned by justice, with a more equitable distribution of wealth, income and working time”.


But, it points out, “there is no guarantee that this will occur”.


It states that if managed poorly, automation could create a ‘paradox of plenty’: society would be far richer in aggregate, but, for many individuals and communities, technological change could reinforce inequalities of power and reward.


This discussion paper argues that public policy should seek to accelerate automation to reap the productivity benefits. It also says the government needs to provide greater support for firms in all sectors and parts of the country to integrate new technologies, improve management, achieve higher rates of investment, and enable a stronger voice for employees in shaping the use of technology at work. The skills system also needs to be reformed to ensure that people can thrive in an era of greater human-machine collaboration.


It adds that new models of collective ownership are required to ensure that everyone has a claim on the dividends of technological change, to enable automation “to work for the common good”.


You can read Managing Automation Employment, Inequality and Ethics in the Digital Age here.