The robotization of the economy will have a net positive impact on employment in Spain, with an expected gain of 672,351 jobs by the year 2030. However, this balance does not hide the fact that there will be professions in which thousands of jobs will be destroyed, such as the physical or requiring manual activities and those involving basic cognitive skills.
According to the study 'Impact of robotics and automation on productivity and employment', prepared by José Ignacio López-Sánchez, Professor of Business Organization at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain will lose 1.6 million jobs in these professions, of which 1.16 million will correspond to physical or manual trades and 455,624 to basic skills.
The first group includes professions such as drivers, assembly line workers, mechanics, stonemasons, roofers, electricians, cooks, machine feeders, cleaners, packers, security guards, and personnel in charge of quality control. In these areas, 1.16 million jobs will be filled by robots as they gain ground in the labor market.
"These are professions in which the activity is automated and in which there is usually no relationship with the user. This group could also include certain specific tasks in other professions that do require higher education, such as nursing, since at better analytics or laying a road are actions that could be carried out by a robot," López-Sánchez explains to this newspaper.
The second group in which there will be a loss of almost half a million jobs in about seven years includes activities such as supermarket cashiers, customer service, typists, accountants or those in charge of entering and processing data. "All the activities in which it is not necessary to think can be carried out by machines", he illustrates.
Despite the fact that the robots will remove jobs from people in these areas, the truth is that according to calculations by the Complutense the final balance will be positive. Despite this loss of jobs, robotization will stimulate the creation of 2.29 million jobs in more qualified segments.
"One of the variables that plays an important role in the process of automating jobs is the educational level of workers. The largest difference in the proportion of jobs with potentially high rates of automation is related to the education levels of Low-educated and medium-educated workers have significantly higher estimated average automation rates across all countries (44% and 36% respectively), compared to higher-educated workers, such as university graduates (11%) Highly educated workers are overrepresented in the professional, scientific and technical, and education sectors, which tend to be less automatable on average," he explains.
For example, 294,295 jobs will be created by 2030 in professions that require higher cognitive abilities such as copywriters, paralegals, writers, financial analysts, accountants, doctors, insurance underwriters, purchasing agents, first-line supervisors, market research analysts, lawyers, public relations specialists or composers.
Job creation will amount to 786,182 positions in professions that require social and emotional skills such as sales representatives, real estate agents, counselors, social workers, therapists, managers, executives, programmers or teachers; and there will be 1.21 million new jobs in trades that involve technology skills, such as administrative assistants, network administrators, software developers, engineers, robotics experts, scientists or product designers.
In these areas, warns the Complutense professor, the problem is that Spain will not have enough staff to cover all these vacancies. "We are going to have two very big problems. One, that those who we train in the STEM areas (acronyms in English for science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are going to go abroad because in other countries like Germany and the United Kingdom they are also going to demand more professionals in those areas, so they will leave because there are better working conditions there," he warns.
In these countries, jobs will be destroyed and created in the same segments, although not with the same intensity, hence the net gain in other countries is much higher: in France the positive balance will be 1.56 million jobs; in Germany, 2.47 million, and in the United Kingdom, 2.7 million, something that the expert explains by the sectoral composition of the economy and the high weight that activities with little added value have in Spain, such as some services .
The second problem, he warns, "is that in Spain those who are going to lose their jobs due to robotization are not going to requalify to be able to carry out another activity," he warns. He gives as an example the 40-year-old trucker who stops driving a truck when his position is automated, and in which no one invests to requalify him for another sector.
"The conclusion is that either the State realizes it or we are not going to be able to cover the new positions and we will lose a strategic opportunity to gain productivity," he says.
Germany is the country in the European Union with the highest density of robots per 10,000 workers and, nevertheless, it is one of those that will experience the greatest job gains, which shows that the more robots there are, the less risk of losing jobs and the more competitive its the country. In fact, there is also an inversely proportional relationship between the number of robots and the unemployment rate.
According to the study, the higher the level of automation, the more inequality is reduced in the countries in the medium term. "Automation increases wealth in the country, which can be used by governments to reduce inequality through redistributive policies. In terms of inequality after taxes and transfers, there seems to be evidence that a higher density of robots leads to lower levels of inequality in the medium term. This could be interpreted in the sense that the benefits derived from automation are being used by governments in redistributive policies that reduce inequality."
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