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中英双语阅读7:Who stole the jobs: robots or globalisation?

2017-4-20 20:09| 发布者: admin| 查看: 134| 评论: 0

摘要: Who stole the jobs: robots or globalisation: In the first part of this mini-series, I surveyed how robots, automation and other productivity-enhancing technology is affecting industries at the heart ...

Who stole the jobs: robots or globalisation?

2017-4-17 10:06| 发布者: 悠儿| 查看: 123| 评论: 0



In the first part of this mini-series, I surveyed how robots, automation and other productivity-enhancing technology is affecting industries at the heart of the economy as well as some more exotic science fiction examples. In the second part, I considered the “Solow paradox” — the strange combination of breathless innovation with stagnant labour productivity (though not so strange when you realise there is not that much investment in capital embodying the new technologies).    

Today, we focus on the question of greatest political consequence. Who stole the jobs — was it robots or foreigners? Or less tendentiously, was the falling number of manufacturing jobs in rich countries caused by trade liberalisation or by automation and other productivity-enhancing technological change?    

For it is largely manufacturing jobs we are talking about. The US is special in that overall employment rates (for all jobs taken together) have fallen since the turn of the century, and for longer than that among men. As Jason Furman and his colleagues have documented extensively, the US faces an especially aggravating version of a more common problem in which manufacturing jobs have not only disappeared but failed to be replaced by anything at all.

So are robots or trade to blame? The simple and largely true answer is: both. But there is still a question of their relative importance, and of what exactly the blame entails.    

All industrialised countries have been shedding labour in manufacturing for decades, a process that started before the wave of globalisation in the 1990s. It is clear that the balance of trade has little to do with it: the similarities between structural change in employment in perennial-surplus Germany and permanent-deficit US are much greater than the differences.    

But the growth in overall trade that accompanied the regional and global trade liberalisation during the three decades before the global financial crisis will have the effect of changing the employment and production structure of the opening economies — indeed that is part of the point of lowering trade barriers. Standard theory predicts that with more open trade, countries will specialise more intensively in production that makes most use of their relative endowment of labour, skill, capital and natural resources.

Recent research by Adrian Wood measures to what extent this has indeed happened. As the table below shows (for more detail, look up the background paper) the share of manufacturing in global production and employment fell noticeably in the three decades from 1985. But different regions went through dramatically different changes. In particular, in most land-scarce regions (particularly prone to specialise in manufacturing, according to theory) the share of manufacturing in the economy expanded, while it shrank in all land-abundant ones.    

Wood suggests this shows that the dramatic changes in manufacturing employment can be laid at the door of economic globalisation. But the story is not as simple as that. Look where the biggest changes in employment shares happened. Among rich countries (OECD members), the manufacturing employment share fell just as much in land-rich and land-scarce economies. The output share increased in land-scarce ones — but in conjunction with the loss of manufacturing jobs, this is surely an effect of automation and technology. Meanwhile the two other regions with particularly large structural changes were the Soviet sphere, which in 1985 had an overgrown and inefficient manufacturing sector that collapsed under its own weight once the economy was liberalised, and China, whose liberalisation and trade integration surely contributed to its industrial revolution.    

What all this points to, then, is a process in which many poor countries went from a pre-industrial employment structure to an industrial one (but some stagnated, in particular in Africa), and in which all rich countries largely went from an industrial to a service-based employment structure. The poor country transition or lack of it no doubt owes a lot to the ability to enter the world trading system. In the rich country transition this looks more like what you would expect from the continued growth in manufacturing productivity, echoing what had earlier happened in agriculture.    

And conversely, there is direct evidence for the automation thesis. A new study by Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo tries to measure the effect on US jobs (and wages) of the increased use of industrial robots. An interview with Acemoglu about the findings puts the number of manufacturing jobs lost because of robots at 670,000 between 1990 and 2007.

What lessons can we draw? First, that both trade and automation play a role. But second and more importantly, that the two cannot be neatly separated — automation-driven productivity growth and attendant job loss may be both an ultimately unavoidable part of economic change and be accelerated by trade liberalisation. Rich economies with highly-skilled labour forces are well placed to respond to greater trade by specialising in higher-value added products — just those where automation can do the most to increase productivity. Hence, for example, the success so far of the US car industry, which produces more vehicles than ever and exports finished cars to China.

But third, that a protectionist trade policy may not do much good even if trade was part of what eroded certain jobs in the past. For if trade helped automation along the way, it is not as if restricting it will wind automation back. At most it may delay further automation, but that will come at a cost. In particular, it will make it harder to export manufacturing goods into a global market that uses the most cost-effective techniques. Trade sceptics who aim to protect manufacturing jobs should be alert to the distinction of protectionism and mercantilism. While the latter aims to boost exports, the former, by restricting imports, may well hold back exports, too.



在这几篇迷你系列文章的第一部分,我调查了现今机器人、自动化以及其他提高生产率的技术是如何影响经济核心产业以及一些更奇特的科幻小说例子。在第二部分,我考察了“索洛悖论”(Solow paradox)——令人喘不过气的创新与停滞不前的劳动生产率的奇怪组合(不过当你意识到并没有那么多体现新技术的投资时,这就没那么奇怪了)。


我们主要讨论制造业就业。美国的特殊之处在于,自从进入21世纪以来,总体就业率(所有工作都算在一起)一直下滑,并且下滑时间长于男性就业率下滑的时间。正如杰森?福尔曼(Jason Furman)及其同事记录的大量文档所表明的那样,美国正面临着一个比较普遍的问题的严重版——制造业岗位不仅消失了,而且没有得到任何替代。




艾德里安?伍德(Adrian Wood)最近的研究衡量了这种情况发生的程度。如下表所示(若需要更多细节,请查阅相关论文),在1985年之后的30年里,制造业在全球生产和就业中所占比例明显下滑。但不同地区经历了截然不同的变化。尤其是,在大多数土地稀缺的地区(根据理论,这些是尤其倾向于专攻制造业的地区),制造业在经济中的占比有所扩大,而在所有土地充裕的地区,制造业在经济中的占比缩小了。



相反,有直接证据支撑了自动化造成制造业失业的论点。达龙?阿西莫格鲁(Daron Acemoglu)和帕斯夸尔?雷斯特雷波(Pascual Restrepo)的新研究试图衡量,加大使用工业机器人对美国就业(和工资水平)的影响。在一篇就研究发现对阿西莫格鲁的采访中,1990年至2007年因机器人而造成的制造业失业数字为67万。











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