technology classroom robot Oleksandr Rupeta/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Education in the Age of Automation

The race is on between technology and education. The outcome will determine whether the opportunities presented by major innovations are seized, and whether the benefits of progress are widely shared.

SEOUL – As digital technologies and automation have advanced, fears about workers’ futures have increased. But, the end result does not have to be negative. The key is education.

Already, robots are taking over a growing number of routine and repetitive tasks, putting workers in some sectors under serious pressure. In South Korea, which has the world’s highest density of industrial robots – 631 per 10,000 workers – manufacturing employment is declining, and youth unemployment is high. In the United States, the increased use of robots has, according to a 2017 study, hurt employment and wages.

But while technological progress undoubtedly destroys jobs, it also creates them. The invention of motor vehicles largely wiped out jobs building or operating horse-drawn carriages, but generated millions more not just in automobile factories, but also in related sectors like road construction. Recent studies indicate that the net effects of automation on employment, achieved through upstream industry linkages and demand spillovers, have been positive.

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