Automation and the Future of Work: Scenarios and Policy Options

CIGI Papers No. 174

May 29, 2018

Driven by the exponential growth in computing power and the digitization of things, artificial intelligence and robotics are poised to transform the economy. While these technologies are likely to boost productivity and generate significant wealth, their potential impact on the labour market is concerning, with some estimates suggesting that nearly half of all existing jobs could be automated in the next two decades. What is almost certain is that these technologies will further increase inequality: workers with skills that are complementary to these new technologies will benefit, while those with skills that are substitutes will face dimming job prospects. The extent and speed of the transformation remains uncertain. This paper presents several possible scenarios for the future of work and draws on the Industrial Revolution to offer a historical perspective. It ends with a discussion of different policy options that could be deployed. Foremost, it highlights the urgent need for further international collaboration to broaden the tax base, both because tax avoidance is likely to become a bigger problem as wealth and income become increasingly concentrated and mobile and because of the likely need to expand the social safety net in the face of potentially massive and long-lasting disruptions.

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CIGI Papers present in-depth analysis and discussion on governance-related subjects. They include policy papers that present CIGI experts' positions or contributions to policy debates, and background papers that contain research findings, insights and data that contribute to the development of policy positions.

About the Authors

Joël Blit is a CIGI senior fellow researching the topic of innovation, including exploring intellectual property rights, closing Canada’s innovation gap, and the link between Canadian immigration and innovation.