Are people are being ‘left behind’ by progress? Apps, drones, driverless cars, and other new technologies have the potential to revolutionise Europe’s economy. But what happens to low-skilled workers? Will they also benefit from Europe’s digital revolution? Or will they struggle to ‘up-skill’ and remain in the labour market? As the economy automates and grows, will it also create more jobs in the service sector? Or will the economy become more unequal, as highly-skilled workers reap the benefits, whereas traditional working class jobs dry up?

Economists claim that companies using the Internet are creating jobs at a faster rate than they lose them, including jobs in the service sector to support all those new computer scientists and engineers. The app economy alone has created more than 1.6 million European jobs. Yet, the new jobs require a completely different skill set to the old jobs. On current projections, over 750,000 ICT jobs could remain unfilled in Europe by 2020 due to a lack of digital skills in the workforce.

Curious to know more about how new technology is changing the labour market? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).
So, what do our readers think? On 28 March 2017, Debating Europe co-hosted an event in Brussels with Google on “Digital Transformation in the Mobile Era: New Skills, Jobs and Growth”, and we took some of your questions to participants.

First up, we had a comment from Anatilde, who is worried that new technology will eventually make low-skilled human workers obsolete.

To get a reaction, we put her comment to Vish Makhijani, President and Chief Operating Officer of Udacity, a for-profit educational organisation that offers massive open online courses (MOOCs). What would he say to Anatilde?

Next, we had a comment from Lila, who was not sure that the internet economy would also benefit older people, who may not be so comfortable with new technology.

For a response, we took her comment to Michael Quigley, Director of the European Office at the Progressive Policy Institute, a think-tank that promotes innovation and growth in a knowledge-based economy

Finally, we had a comment from Darcy, who wondered how can Europe close its ‘skills gap’, so that workers have the skills needed for a knowledge-based economy.

We took this to Christina J. Colclough, ‎Senior Advisor Communications on Digitalisation, Trade & Climate Change at the UNI Global Union, a global federation of unions in the skills and services sectors. What would she say?

Does technology create more jobs than it disrupts? And how can Europe close its “skills gap”, so that workers have the right set of skills for the changing labour market? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Steve Jurveston


134 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Oli Lau

    There are more “robots” in Germany than in France, even far more “robots” in South Korean than in France and yet…they both almost achieved full employment while the later experiences huge unemployement.

    There were similar debates circa 1850 with the arrival of automatic loom that indeed destroyed jobs but creates so many new ones.

    My current job for example didn’t exist 25 year ago.

    • Fabian

      Albeit the weekly working hours in Germany are now (on average for full-time jobs) 38.5 h, while in 1850 it was 82. If we arrive at 20 h/ week – cheers!

  2. Γεώργιος Δανιηλίδης

    Job is the action of employee cannot be created.Technology increases production definitely.A JUST Society regulates required work to employ all citizens according their skills under fair conditions.

  3. Bobi Dochev

    No it doesn’t! In fact it is the time to put more taxes on the technological advanced manufactures and companies because they should cover the social expenses for the jobs people lost!

    • Ether Traveler

      Give me a break with those taxes. Is a matter of distribution. And it can be done without the nonesens of taxes. Humans should bring out that breaking head ideas . Sick and tired of that ‘economic sciences’ nonsens, obsolent, time & life stealing, “busy, busy, busy…” waste of life!

    • Bobi Dochev

      And… what is your idea? There are magazine without stuff, there are travel agencies without agent there are manufacturers without worker – thousands of jobs lost.
      What is your idea – to shoot those worker because somebody doesn’t want to pay taxes so they could live and retrain?!

    • Paul X

      The more you tax those with jobs to give to those who don’t, the less people are going to bother looking for jobs

    • CeesBoogaart

      Most R&D in robotonica is goverment subsidized either direct or by taxdeduction, instead of (extra)taxation goverment should insists on “a piece of the cake”, a part of the profit (a part of the company in fact, and with that part they can pay unemployment, re-education of unemployed. Btw is not only in robotica, is also in pharmacy. Economics are simple, if jobs go, unemployed can buy less or not at all, so that has to be compensated. Many countries with financial help of MOE (Ministory of Economics or similar) relocate businesses to lower wage countries, so same should apply there. (Or a import duty but a share in the company in long run will be more profitable for countries taxpayers.

  4. Erik Jakub Citterberg

    It does not matter. It really does not. You cannot fight technology and therefore the best you can do is to embrace the changes it brings.
    If anything you should embrace automation and use it to bring in automated jobs that were outsourced to foreign countries here and maybe enable to fully use its potential by even the smaller entrapeneurs.

    • Ether Traveler

      In part agree with your point of view. Namely, the part of “not matter” how long it’s in the equal distribution & the benefit of ‘the whole’ with the implimentation of the best.
      Less agree with the ‘country divisions & entrepeneurs’ part of your point of view. ?

    • Erik Jakub Citterberg

      Ether Traveler What divisions?
      Don’t you think we should subsidy these kinds of technologies the same as we do with agriculture? I think it is area worthy of investment.

  5. Erik Jakub Citterberg

    It does not matter. It really does not. You cannot fight technology and therefore the best you can do is to embrace the changes it brings.
    If anything you should embrace automation and use it to bring in automated jobs that were outsourced to foreign countries here and maybe enable to fully use its potential by even the smaller entrapeneurs.

  6. Sebastiano Schavoir

    Why do universities in ome countries allow unlimited number of psychologists but ask engineering candidates to pass entrance exams?

  7. Chris Pavlides

    Tech its just a tool serving human needs. When it is used against we have a problem with the hand that holds it.

  8. Sebastiano Schavoir

    As if we had a choice between technologising and not technologising. By 2050, who’s not contributing to AI will be getting social aid.

  9. Любомир Иванчев

    Technology doesn’t create or destroy jobs by itself. Entrepreneurs and their business models do under the influence of the market. If you want to create more jobs you have to stimulate entrepreneurship and business endeavors and make it easy for them to develop their businesses. If you want to minimize the job loss because of automation, you need to allow for and stimulate flexible business models that can re-qualify people easy and fast and take them on for other roles after they’ve been sacked because of automation. The aim should be minimal downtime for workers after automation.

    • Barry Martins

      Paula, absolutely correct and thousands of other manufacturing jobs, All explorted to the EU with the EU giving our money to aid them to relocate all with the assent of our boody leaders.

    • Paula Pandora Allen

      far more jobs have gone to the east.. ask Virgin and Vodafone to name just 2

    • Stefania Portici

      da noi è uguale ! Questa idea di Unione Europea è stata forzata da Paesi esterni all’europa ma le regole economiche principali , le ha dettate la Francia e la Germania …… eh ….con chi ce la vogliamo prendere !? Un pochino di autoanalisi aiutano a farci uscire da questa morsa

  10. Barry Martins

    In the long term it will cause countless millions of subsistance living and this so called advance is pure greed of the so called elite and corporations and yet the powers that be still want to import hundreds of thousands of low skilled low quality workers and shirkers , It all stinks to high heaven.

  11. Dark Doomer

    the eyes on the LCD screen are totally pointless. who the fuck engineered this abomination?

  12. Bódis Kata

    Technology will create more jobs than it disrupts when those jobs pay enough salaries to keep up the consumption of products and especially services.
    The most labor-intensive jobs in a modern economy are in the services sector.

  13. Nayim Tami

    Depends of the technology. Robots are much cheaper than the human working force, companies use them basically, for reduce the salary charge in the company numbers, so at the end they destroy many working places, and create a few. Numbers are numbers, and robots are cheaper than humans. Is always the same in all the technological revolutions.

  14. Dobromir Panchev

    The original idea of having robots was to replace humans in hard and unpleasant work. So the aim of the engineers was to help people work less and live better. The economists did not get the idea. With the progress of science and technology today, it could be normal for people to work 4 hours a day, not 8.

  15. China Tee IV

    technology eliminate jobs than it creates. Machines replace people meaning many people will be left jobless which negatively affects them.

  16. Jason Cole

    did jobs disappear with the introduction of machinery in the industrial revolution? everybody claimed it would but no. the humans just moved to more high tech jobs, and also became consumers due to products being manufactured cheaper… same will happen with robots. initially some people will see their jobs go, but over time people will move to different jobs, every job a robot takes, you’ll still need an engineer to install and maintain that robot. and you’ll live a higher standard of living as costs come down, and more people can afford the products. more and more we are also looking at high level research, and in the next few decades space. and humans will always be required in many industries, such as care… with robotics we’ll also be able to allow for shorter working days for the same wage, meaning more people can actually enjoy their life instead of spending it working. this will then grow entertainment and leisure industries

  17. Per Eric Rosén

    Isn’t the whole idea “creating jobs” a bit outdated? We don’t need “jobs”, we need physical goods and services. If we get the same needs fulfilled with less person-hours, it’s in itself a good thing. It’s just that the design of how we provide for each other that has caught up.

  18. Barry Farmer

    The ideal outcome of robotic production is that the same amount of goods are produced with less human activity, thus allowing us more free time to use the increased prospertity generated – but wait – there’s some fucker making a huge profit and paying those workers who still remain even LESS than before….

    • Mike Dearing

      … so a more redistributive system of wealth is needed. Yes, if we’re not to be turned into slaves and beggars then the march of the fat cats has to be curbed somehow short of violent revolution.
      Red, black or red/black flag, anyone?

  19. Filip Anton

    A lot of people say NO but that’s because they are guessing. There’s a lot of technophobia going on and is not uncommon when new technologies threatened old ones. In real practice robots increase productivity by almost 300% which means 1 robot can work as hard as 3 people and make less mistakes. All the work they displace they also create more work from general labour to robot maintenance worker. Robots require a LOT of maintenance, inspection, and regular checks. So indeed all the work they displace they create. Also finally robots can produce so much that most people can be put on universal basic income giving more leisure to more creative endeavours so is not so grim of an outlook as people make it.

  20. Mauro Scimia

    New technologies should create more enterprises, as the cost of technology gets lower and lower. A typical setting could be a company set up around a 3-d printer to make the product, a few apps and a web site to support and sell it. If any such company can employ ,say, 10 people and 100 new such companies are created, well, that makes up the loss of one old company with 1000 employees. So, governments, improve education, cut bureacracies and paperwork, and make it exceptionally easy to set up one’s own business.
    Mauro ( Bracciano-Rome, Italy).

  21. Fredrik Limegård

    No – There will be more jobs replaced/obsolete than being created. Just watch the data – What new jobs have been created the last 50 years and how many do they employ ?

  22. Γεώργιος Δανιηλίδης

    Jobs are disrupted by medieval working hours imposed by EU ,that increase working hours and decrease working conditions.Unemployment is not permitted in a modern HUMAN society under ANY conditions .And poverty of course

    • Tina Lythe

      It’s got nothing too do with eu moron

    • David Moody

      Hang on a mo ~I was told it was the tories wot dunnit in the UK. But its the EU? The plot thickens!

    • Jimk Kelly

      Who dictates the rules and regulations
      Dictates the business, EU and banking in lieu bailed out countries, they demand payment in natural resources ie water fisheries. Transport. Airports, forrestry etc by privatisation, with the governments corporation…

    • Jimk Kelly

      The plot always thickens David Moody ?????

    • Jimk Kelly

      The plot always thickens David Moody 😂😂😂😂😂

  23. Cormac MacGowan

    This debate is long over. It is inevitable that all jobs will be automated. All of them, eventually, and most of them in the medium term. This is a bullshit debate. I have to wonder who is sponsoring it and for what purpose. It has the grubby and corrupt pawmarks of the EPP all over it.

  24. Kevin Brawn

    No and soon they will be a real need to address this issue. Once robotics starts to seriously intrude into our lives outside the factories, the need will become critical. The way wealth is distributed will have to change, what work and wealth there is will need to be shared. Possibly with the working week of 40 hours being reduced to 24 hours to start with, I could see this figure going even lower as the roll out continues into hospitals. Plus onto railways, planes, almost all forms of work. Plastering, bricklaying, electrical, joinery, nursing doctors, soldiers, deliveries etc etc etc. Scary

  25. Joerg Sp

    Well, this is not a debatable question, it’s a question of data and can be shown convulsively.

  26. Kevin Foley

    those who will be ‘winners’ will not spend their higher incomes to the same extent as the poorer folk who will lose out + robots don’t go shopping = a global downward spiral of demand; either we get universal basic incomes in place or the last 10 years will look like the good times.

  27. Patrik Klingborg

    Perhaps not, but it’s definitively laying the groundwork for a better society where we will have to work less. It’s, of course, a painful process for a society based on work, but one which we will benefit from.

  28. Jonathon Laraune

    All thjis automation is all well and good, but when the machins completely take over production where do the now jobless people get the money from to buy the products?

  29. Raymonde Forster

    new technologies, they boost employment, but some new technologies aren’t a good idea at all. Driverless car technology being an inescapable looming disaster.

  30. Cees Boogaart

    Most R&D in robotonica is goverment subsidized either direct or by taxdeduction, instead of (extra)taxation goverment should insists on “a piece of the cake”, a part of the profit (a part of the company in fact) and with that part they can pay unemployment, re-education of unemployed. Btw is not only in robotica, is also in pharmacy. Economics are simple, if jobs go, unemployed can buy less or not at all, so that has to be compensated. Many countries with financial help of MOE (Ministory of Economics or similar) relocate businesses to lower wage countries, so same should apply there. (Or a import duty but a share in the company in long run will be more profitable for countries taxpayers.

  31. Denis Buckley

    It used to work that way. Now though with neoliberal globalisation outsourcing the work and ‘offshoring’ the profits, and with the rise of the robots, I doubt it’ll continue to work that way. Given the oligarchy’s selfishness and shortsightedness, they’ll continue to displace workers globally now until we come full circle – to mediaeval peasants and ‘nobility’.

  32. Mark Turner

    progress is the only option. inevitable unavoidable. Or just go back to living in caves saying “this will be fine, i dont need to know whats over that hill”

  33. Dimitris Orfanoudis

    Robotics cut jobs there is no question…So Bill Gates proposed to implemed tax to robots and distribute money in order the people to live a better and happer life….

  34. Elias Tawil

    Imagine if every single woodcutter had to find the right size sharp stone. We’d need many more woodcutters than ones with stone axes. Flint-knapping took jobs.

    • Stef Kostov

      Well its not technology’s fault, we just have to find a way to redistribute it better

    • Yavor Hadzhiev

      Maybe we could have an adequate Universal Basic Income and then it wouldn’t be such a problem. Robots should work for the whole of society and not just the rich.

    • Stefania Portici

      Yavor Hadzhiev infatti “gli illuminati internazionali “mirano proprio a quel che hai detto al reddito base ma noi siamo lavoratori PAGATI DEGNAMENTE E CON I DIRITTI SOCIALI annessi ,noi non siamo consumatori , la nostra Costituzione dice questo e io non voglio una società diversa da questi principi .. Devi avere la prospettiva di una società impegnata, sana, felice e l’ozio è “noia”, la noia porta i vizi malsani. L’ozio non fa la felicità
      In fact, “the international illuminants” aim precisely at what you have said to the basic income but we are WORKERS SUBMITTED AND WITH SOCIAL RIGHTS attached, we are not consumers, our constitution says this and I do not want a society other than these principles. You must have the prospect of a busy, healthy, happy company and leisure is “boredom”, boredom brings unhealthy vices. Idleness does not make happiness

    • Stefania Portici

      Yavor Hadzhiev una persona sana quando ha un reddito base cioè è un mantenuto dal sistema gira gira fa danni. Tante persone mantenute dal sistema si annientano. Vuoi una società con una prospettiva felice e sana o una baraonda ? Se vuoi la baraonda vai col reddito base che è spesa negativa in tutti i sensi

  35. Lonzo Bildelberg

    It really depends how much hours people work weekly, reduce them and you’ll need more people. And since robot efficiency keeps production at levels you can pay those people more

  36. Nestor Be

    Information Technologies teach us how to optimise everything.
    It’s the working class in the “first world” who don’t want to optimise anything. They just CHOOSE to waste. And that’s the problem.

    • Daniel Parvanov

      About the waste I can defend the opposite point… EU trow to trash 145 billion of good food yearly, yet some big companies and NGOs push for GMO food production with the point they will end starvation… Yes they can do that in poor 3d world countries that cannot grow their food in conventional way but in EU they will just increase the waste couple of times

  37. Stefania Portici

    ” “Anche se la tecnologia esiste, l’uomo deve frenarla, e limitarla solo ai lavori che gli umani non possono fare o che sono pericolosi per la vita umana.” P.B. “Even if technology exists, man must restrain it, and limit it only to jobs that humans can not do or that are dangerous to human life.” P.B.

  38. Oli Lau

    of course it creates more jobs. some jobs have simply to disapear.

  39. Ganesh Borude

    To Leaving the EU will create the more jobs because tax payers money is wasted on EU s high profile Bureaucrats

  40. Michael Šimková

    I don’t think it’s logical to assume that technology will necessarily create more jobs than it displaces, particularly when it is being deliberately engineered to be labour-saving (and thus cost-saving). At most you can hope that it will free people up to invent and develop novel things to spend their money on in the service economy.

    To some extent that has been happening already. Try to explain to your grandparents spending money on a “life coach”. As manufacturing costs come down there is more disposable income, and enterprising people can create demand for new products. But will that save us?

    I’m not so optimistic. Unskilled labour is being squeezed out, and retraining or retooling people for more complicated jobs assumes that everyone is equally capable with the right incentive. I don’t believe many people are cut out to be engineers able to invent new machines or social mavens able to charge for their company. Some people depend on unskilled work, some people are just too old retrain.

    Obviously the answer can’t be to imitate Persian Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and pay people to push buttons on the lift so you can pretend they’re productive. We can’t be afraid of the future and we need to modernise. But we should not assume that the problems arising from automation will simply ‘take care of themselves’. Wealth stratification will increase and the middle class will shrink.

    Whether by universal basic income, augmenting people’s cognitive abilities, or whatever else, we will have to act to keep widespread misery at bay. Literacy – which until recently wasn’t universal – is actually essentially a human cognitive augmentation. It makes people smarter, and thus opens them up to more economic possibilities. We may perhaps need to look at mathematics or computer programming literacy in the future in the same way – with the goal of universalising it, so that everyone can participate in the economy.

  41. Ivan Burrows

    Technology does not destroy jobs, bad policies do. You just have to look at Germany and the UK to see technology = more jobs.

    • Stefania Portici

      ” le cattive politiche distruggono i posti i lavoro ” è vero. l’Inghilterra ha rovinato la vita delle persone dell’Occidente. L’Inghilterra è il problema

    • Ivan Burrows

      Stefania Portici lol, only lunatics & fools blame someone else for their failures.

    • Stefania Portici

      Ivan Burrowsse se per te usare l’ìntelligenza per rubare ,avere un esercito non per difendersi ma per sottomettere il mondo è una vittoria ……allora sei un buon inglese ma una cattiva persona, un cattivo popolo e non ho nulla da imparare da chi non capisce i suoi errori e non li corregge

    • Ivan Burrows

      Stefania Portici Being ‘British & free’ means I don’t have to give a dam what you think :)

  42. Faddi Zsolt

    Of course not. Since the Luddists there were always less jobs with every introduced new technologic era

  43. Stefania Portici

    sono gli investimenti buoni ( con buoni intendo STATALI che investe sulle idee , VIA IL PRIVATO, via il privato non regolamentato dallo Stato ) . Investimenti PUBBLICI STATALI e uso delle tasse . Qualsiasi investimento se lo si lascia in mano al PRIVATO non ha a cuore l’interesse del lavoratore , non ha a cuore la piena occupazione, non ha a cuore l’ambiente , vede solo gli interessi e più sono “liberi” ( dallo Stato) e meglio è per il privato fare affari . Spetta allo STATO . RIDATECI LO STATO

    • Stefania Portici

      la piena occupazione con tutti i diritti dei lavoratori annessi , solo lo Stato può garantirlo ….e guarda caso si distrugge lo Stato !? Chi lo distrugge ? Gli esportatori della “libertà” , libertà dallo Stato cosi gli affaristi sono liberi di fare i propri affari sulla pelle della gente

  44. Björn Eric Ingemar Grahn

    They move The Jobs from one Sector to an other they do not taket a way them compleetly. Similar that allas happening when tecknical developments accure. Ex. BlackSmith is gone but we got other Jobs insted.

  45. カメニャク マリオ

    it’s 50-50 ATM. Nevertheless I believe that the barrel will eventually run dry. Sometimes in the next centuries. And it will make no sense to make the population work, keep people stressed, and all the other negative effects of work. Even enjoyable activities and hobbies become unpleasant once they become ‘a job’.

    If we don’t nuke ourselves or if we don’t die to comets or climate change, somewhere in the next couple of centuries we will reach post scarcity and it will make no sense to continue to push people to work.

    … or there will be a mass genocyde of the ‘useless’ population.

  46. Panos Kontogiannis

    Yes, but the jobs are not necessarily created in the same place they are lost. If the workforce is not willing to adapt and/or relocate some locations will profit and others will suffer.

  47. cyril

    Is it a wrong question. What is important is how the technology can benefit for the society and individuals. The problem with the robots and the code is the question of the property rights and the distribution of wealth, where the benefit is centralized by owners and investors and no compensation are given to the rest of the population. The problem is the information (knowledge, know-how, just know what is the futur job, etc.) is not shared.
    If everything is automatized with a high productivity, we needs less person to work, so mechanically you provide more free time for active workers. If there is not new demand, there is less jobs, and in a society where you are recognized only if you’re investing or you’re working, it is a HUGE problem. Secondly, if there is a new field of activity that is growing, the society should dedicate a part to train and provide knowledge and know-how to the population that is not working. But politicians and investors prefer complaining this costs than to take responsibility of their position.

    So, currently, the main discourse is you have to work to benefit the society’s aids, or even support, otherwise you are a cheater !! This system is not sustainable when the productivity reaches the limit of the consumption, and 2/ when the society (mainly the politicians and the investors) considers you as a cheater when it failed to deliver you (or even let you access) the correct knowledge and know-how.
    There is a solution, change the way the benefit and the wealth is redistributed in the society, but politicians and but capital holders keep talking about return one century ago, when workers just work enough for their own well-being.
    It is what a meritocracy utopia is (see The rise of the meritocraty, M.Young, 1958) and read The Economist journal to understand why robots and science computing are not the deep problem. It is just how you justify to get a part of the wealth produce by the society.

    07/12/2017 Michal Waltner, Campus Tel Aviv Program Manager at Google, has responded to this comment.

  48. Hector Niehues-Jeuffroy

    There is no categorical answer to this. There are technologies that simply enhance quality without increasing the efficiency of production. On the other hand, it is hard to see a world where automation would have a net positive impact on jobs. However, at the end of the day, we should ask ourselves: why do we want a society where everybody needs to have a job to provide for him-/herself? Is leisure harmful? We should never forget that work is meant to be a means to accomplish or produce something, never an end in itself (Calvinists may disagree…).

  49. Filipe Nunes

    Technology creates some specialized jobs, and has the potential to replace many unqualified workers. Robots must “pay” taxes.

  50. Pavel Lampa

    It displaces people with low IQ and create job openings for high IQ people. If you think mass 3rd world immigration will solve that you are ignorant moron who doesn’t have idea about IQ research.

  51. Wolfgang Mizelli

    work is payed slavery and serves the exploitation and exhaustion in the interest of the chosen few who own the means for production.

  52. Arina Romanova

    If you only need food, affordable housing and basic mobility, no, no more, but with new possibilities people always have developed new desires.

    • Aron Mik

      Bleep bleep

  53. Любомир Иванчев

    Yes. Technology, innovation and automation create whole new industries in the long run. 200 years ago there was no such thing as IT industry, automotive industry, fuel and energy industry, electronics industry, etc.

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