End of work: between fantasy, sea serpent of public debate and reality

The progress made in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence, the rise of the Internet of Things, the processing of mass data (big data) or the emergence of 3D printing are today fuelling concerns about a "jobless future". In the international economic literature, since 2013, several studies have sought to estimate the proportion of current jobs that could be threatened with disappearance due to new automation possibilities. The Employment Guidance Council wished to deepen and refine the diagnosis by carrying out a comprehensive analysis of the foreseeable impacts of the new wave of technological innovations on employment and work.
L’Will innovation destroy more jobs than it creates? This is the question asked by journalist Arnaud de Robert, broadcast in the Matinale de Radio Freedoms. According to him, the health and medical sector is the first to be impacted by the loss of jobs: telemedicine, telediagnostics, surgical robotics. Then, teaching: e-learning, distance learning, presence in front of students, whatever one thinks about it, is no longer necessary, according to him. We could also talk about security, personal assistance, distribution and industry. And this radical change in society raises crucial questions: if work disappears, so does income? The new workless world could quickly become explosive. And yet no, according to some analysts. In fact, many are basing the transition on the famous universal income paid to all without means-testing. An income paid by the state that would allow it to eliminate all other aid and would come from the taxation of the wealth-creating elite alone. Here too, we are far from utopia, especially when we see how eagerly our policies have taken up the question of universal income in recent years.
This is the case of the presidential candidate, Benoît Hamon, who at least succeeded in imposing his favourite theme in the debate: the creation of a universal income as a response to the shortage of work. It is widely believed that this is one of the few, if not the only, new ideas in this campaign, although many question its relevance.

READ ALSO IN UP' : Socialist primary: a historic victory for universal income? 

Business leaders also advocate universal income, such as Elon Musk, who, in an interview with CNBC and relayed by the site, told of his feelings on a future in which machines will gradually replace (at least) most industrial jobs.
A challenge that is not only on principle. It is also aimed at the initial diagnosis on which this political project is based: diagnosis according to which automation and robotisation would destroy many jobs that productivity gains would not make it possible to compensate.
However, there is no consensus on the idea that work is becoming irretrievably scarce. Several recent studies carried out in France, in particular that of the Conseil d'orientation pour l'emploi (COE), put the impact of the digital revolution on the volume of activity into perspective. 10 % of jobs would be threatened: this is not negligible, but it is much less than anticipated. some of the previous scenarios much more pessimistic....and which might have warranted a complete review of our relationship at work.
On Tuesday 10 January 2017, the Employment Guideline Council therefore adopted the first volume of a report entitled "Automation, digitisation and employment".
While successive technological revolutions have so far been accompanied by increased employment, automation and digitisation, interdependent technologies that spread with multiplier effects beyond the strict production of goods and services are fuelling fears about a "jobless future". Recent studies have estimated that a massive share of existing jobs could be threatened with disappearance.
The Employment Guidance Council wanted to address this issue, which is central to the economy and to our social pact, in order to inform public debate and public decision-making.
While existing studies focus only on "job destruction", the Council wanted to deepen the analysis and embrace all the challenges but also the opportunities of the ongoing technological revolution. Marie-Claire Carrère-Gée, President of the Council, observes as follows: "Prospective studies to date have focused on the risk of job destruction. Care must be taken not to oversimplify. »
In this first volume, the Council analyses the possible effects of technological progress on the volume of employment (in terms of disappearance but also of creation), but also the effects on the structure of employment (which trades and sectors are most concerned? how are trades likely to evolve? what types of skills will be most in demand in the future?) and its location, both nationally (which employment areas could be most concerned?) and internationally (could technologies encourage a movement to relocate jobs in France?).
In particular, the Board publishes the results of a study on the exposure of French employees to automation. This study, carried out within the General Secretariat, concludes that :
- less than 10% of jobs have cumulative vulnerabilities that could threaten their existence in an automation context;
- half of existing jobs could be significantly or profoundly transformed.
The Council also publishes a list of occupations which, in the light of this study, appear to be the most vulnerable, as well as a list of occupations whose content is likely to be transformed.
According to Marie-Claire Carrère-Gée, "When it comes to their consequences on employment, robots, artificial intelligence or 3D printing do not justify either fear or exaltation. The transformation of existing jobs, probably on a very large scale, could provide as many opportunities and make many tasks less strenuous and more efficient. Job losses, perhaps significant, could be compensated, and more than, by job creation in France. It is up to us - economic actors, citizens, public authorities - to give ourselves the means to do so."
In a second volume to be published in the spring, the Council will study the impacts on working conditions and work organisation, as well as the skills of the workforce. This is to give public authorities and citizens a solid diagnosis to prepare the public policy decisions that must continue to be taken in all areas: employment, training, social protection, but also support for innovation and the localisation of activities.

Report Summary Automation, Digitization and Use Volume 1 PDF - (1.0 Mb)

Report Automation, Scanning and Use Volume 1 PDF - (9.1 Mb)

Focus on the study presented by the WCC general secretariat PDF - (1.8 Mb)

To go further:
Study of Carl B. Frey, Michael A. OsborneThe future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerisation? "September 2013.
- Book "The end of work" by Jeremy Rifkin, The Discovery 1997
- Book" Work: An endangered value? "by Dominique Méda, Flammarion 2010
- Book" Work: the necessary revolution "by Dominique Méda, Nouvelles éditions de l'Aube, 2013
- Book" The job is dead, long live work! by Bernard Stiegler, A Thousand and One Nights 2015
- Article" The great bluff of robotics "Against, 21 February 2017.


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