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Robots and the Green New Deal

This letter was in The Guardian on 26 November 2017:
Your editorial on productivity and robots repeated the cliche that automation does cost jobs, but more are created. The problem with this is that the new jobs are frequently in different places from where they are lost and require very different skills, hence exacerbating the problems [...]

This letter was in The Guardian on 26 November 2017:

Your editorial on productivity and robots repeated the cliche that automation does cost jobs, but more are created. The problem with this is that the new jobs are frequently in different places from where they are lost and require very different skills, hence exacerbating the problems for the “left behind”. Also unmentioned was that just as this automation is starting to really bite, the world faces a strong possibility of another serious credit-induced economic downturn, from China to the UK. Thus we have the potential of the prefect storm of domestic unemployment soaring and export markets falling as happened after the 2008 economic slump.

The answer to these problems has to be a shift of emphasis to rebuilding the local economy by prioritising labour-intensive sectors that are difficult to automate and impossible to relocate abroad. Two sectors are key: face-to-face caring from medicine, education and elderly care through to carbon-reducing national infrastructural renewal. This should range from making the UK’s 30m buildings energy efficient, constructing new low-carbon dwellings and rebuilding local public transport links. Funding could come from fairer taxes, the availability for savers of investments in local authority bonds and green Isas and a massive new green infrastructure QE programme. The reason this approach must become central to all political parties and their next election manifestos is the crucial vote winning mantra of “jobs in absolutely every constituency”.

Colin Hines

Convenor, UK Green New Deal Group