Zhen Jie Im
Working Paper: Status decline and welfare competition
In 1920, Karel Capek, first coined the term robots in his play Rossum’s Universal Robots. His play was set in the year 2000. In this play, robots were preferred over humans in production because they enabled products to be produced at a fraction of a cost. Karel Capek’s premonition may be late by some years, but it seems that the age of automation has now dawned upon us. Today, we are treated to a deluge of information in the mass media that automation would transform labour markets, much like the industrial revolution. Blue- collared manufacturing jobs, which had not been offshored to countries where labour costs are lowers, are now vulnerable to substitution by automation. Yet, it is not just blue-collared and manufacturing jobs which are threatened in the wake of automation; white-collared and service sectors ones are vulnerable too. In 2019, the Atlantic ran a report about employees from the Marriott International protesting for protection against automated technology that is now prevalent in the hospitality sector. The final sentence of this commentary piece reads, “automation may not be a nuclear strike against the service industry, wiping out all of its jobs. Instead, it may quietly reduce the time, pay, and visibility employees are given as they complete their increasingly vulnerable jobs”.