Since 2008, it’s hard to remember any concrete, material and implementable solutions for the world’s worst problems as a result of the meeting of some of the world’s most powerful leaders that is the G20 Summit.
The talks in recent years have been plagued with general discussions on trade – a subject suffering near paralysis among the world’s nations – inclusive growth, fiscal stimulus and innovation; None of these have been boldly moved forward by G20 leaders.
This time seems no different. In the coming days world leaders are meeting in Buenos Aires with three main priorities: the future for work; infrastructure for development; and a sustainable food future.
Future of work
I’d like to touch upon the first of these subjects. Two issues make it imperative to consider the job market of the future immediately: low productivity and automation. Both are interrelated. The insignificant increases in labor productivity in recent years can be attributed to the substitution of manufacturing jobs with employment in the (less-productive) services sector. At the same time the automation of many jobs that have been historically manual is going to create massive unemployment.
The G20 members state in their declaration of intentions that: “We need to create the conditions for more and better jobs. We need to provide tools and skills to those people looking for a job and those whose jobs are at risk of being replaced by automation.”
This is definitely a relevant task, but I don’t think it is a choice that politicians can make without considering a broader set of economic conditions. At the end of the day, job creation depends not only on which sectors we favor via policy, but primarily on building economies that grow, and grow enough. As usual, the G20 members prioritize issues that economists have already discussed extensively: “We will seek to pin down the impact that technological change is having on productivity, growth, jobs, and inequality.” And it worries me a lot that they also state that “Following a diagnostics phase, we will also explore the policies needed to embrace the opportunities and address the challenges presented by technology.” To me, the only possible policy solution to the challenges presented by technology is to reduce the impact of technology in our lives, and therefore in our jobs.