The debate arose at the World Economic Forum (WEF) (https://www.weforum.org) this year, when it indicated that according to different studies, robots (artificial intelligence) would lead to a loss of five million jobs in the top fifteen most industrialized countries worldwide. Is it, as the famous REM song says, the end of the world as we know it? Perhaps not, but it is not science fiction either, since this figure is expected to be upon us by 2020.
The impact of this trend, again in light of the assessments made, will be felt more in the emerging economies (Asia and Latin America), by reducing the competitive edge that these regions had been enjoying as a result of lower labor costs.
According to the analysis made by the experts, the first jobs to be affected will be those involving manual and repetitive functions (such as administrative work, with little added value, logistics or transport. The advance of intelligent machines will not stop here, however, by going on to affect more technical professions (indeed the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry speculated about the possibility of nano-robots being injected into patients that would act as surgeons: http://elpais.com/elpais/2016/11/02/ciencia/1478089561_253807.html).
It is not all doom and gloom, since the development and optimization of robots will create close to one million new specialized jobs, such as key technology, digital design and other similar skills.
In the WEF, ABB, a Swiss-Swedish multinational presented YuMi, a two-armed robot with sensors guaranteed to be safe and intelligent around humans (http://new.abb.com/products/robotics/es/robots-industriales/yumi) The prelude to their replacement?
The truth is that various industries have already expressed a need for employment legislation to keep in step with this reality. Indeed, the UNI Global Union General Secretary, Patrick Jennings, indicated that the influence of artificial intelligence would change the world: http://www.uniglobalunion.org/news/jennings-bbc-artificial-intelligence-will-change-employment-landscape.
The proposal has been taken up by workers’ rights organizations and some major unions have already expressed the need for machines to pay social security contributions or failing this, to make up economically for the job losses that will arise due to their emergence in the employment market.
This proposal for an economic contribution, in the form of a fee for including robots at companies is already being analyzed by the European Parliament, as can be seen in the Draft Report with recommendations to the Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML%2BCOMPARL%2BPE-582.443%2B01%2BDOC%2BPDF%2BV0//ES
A prospect that is clearly fascinating and which raises important questions that will have to be addressed by lawmakers as equally innovative as the robots themselves, which, for the time being at least, appear to be threatening the continuity of certain jobs as we know them.
Garrigues Labor and Employment Law Department