uber app Bernard Weil/ZumaPress

El fin del trabajo tal como lo conocemos

PARÍS – En 1983, el economista y premio Nobel norteamericano Wassily Leontief hizo lo que por entonces fue una predicción alarmante. Las máquinas, dijo, probablemente reemplacen la mano de obra humana de la misma manera que el tractor reemplazó al caballo. Hoy, con unos 200 millones de personas desempleadas en el mundo -30 millones más que en 2008-, las palabras de Leontief ya no parecen tan estrafalarias como en otro momento. De hecho, pocas dudas existen respecto de que la tecnología está en proceso de transformar completamente el mercado laboral global.

Sin duda, las predicciones como la de Leontief hacen que muchos economistas se sientan escépticos, y con buenos motivos. Históricamente, los incrementos de la productividad rara vez destruyeron el empleo. Cada vez que las máquinas mejoraban la eficiencia (incluido cuando los tractores sustituyeron a los caballos), desaparecían los antiguos empleos, pero se creaban nuevos. Es más, los economistas son expertos en desmenuzar los números, y los datos recientes demuestran una desaceleración -no una aceleración- de las alzas de productividad. En lo que concierne a la cantidad real de empleos disponibles, existen razones para cuestionar las predicciones sombrías de los agoreros. Sin embargo, también hay motivos para pensar que la naturaleza del trabajo está cambiando.

Para empezar, como observó el economista del MIT David Autor, los avances en la automatización de la mano de obra transforman algunos empleos más que otros. Es cada vez más factible que los trabajadores que desempeñan tareas de rutina como el procesamiento de datos sean reemplazados por máquinas; pero aquellos que desarrollan labores más creativas tengan más chances de experimentar mejoras en la productividad. Mientras tanto, los trabajadores que ofrecen servicios en persona podrían no ver un cambio en absoluto en sus empleos. En otras palabras, los robots pueden dejar sin trabajo a un contador, impulsar la productividad de un cirujano y no afectar en nada el trabajo de un peluquero.

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