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(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on Jan. 9)

All Headlines 07:06 January 09, 2017

Growth in joblessness
-Roadmap on fourth industrial revolution should prioritize jobs-

The ability of the Korean economy to create jobs has about halved over the past five years.

Despite economic growth, job gains are going into a tailspin, according to data released by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and Statistics Korea on Tuesday.

In 2012, the economy grew 2.3 percent, creating 437,000 jobs or 190,000 jobs per 1 percent growth. This year, it is expected to grow 2.6 percent and add 260,000 jobs or 100,000 jobs per 1 percent growth. This trend points toward growth without jobs. The economy grows but loses jobs faster than it creates ones.

Many job losses were attributed to the bankruptcies of self-employed businesses and industrial restructuring. However, in the big picture, overall job losses despite growth is a prelude to the shifting paradigm of the economy.

The world is at the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution, with entire industries adjusting to the revolution and many occupations undergoing fundamental transformations.

With a paradigm shift at the doorstep of the country, Korea needs a roadmap to navigate change as it moves into unchartered territory.

In a welcome move, the government said on Dec. 29 last year that it will create a committee to draw up and coordinate strategies for the fourth industrial revolution. The panel has been tasked to come up with a package of measures by April.

Its strategies should deal with the hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost and its consequent social problems, not to mention technological development. The unemployment issue should also take high priority.

In the fourth industrial revolution, a large proportion of human labor might be replaced by technologies such as robots, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

As many as 7.1 million jobs could be lost from 15 developed countries for the five years leading to 2020 due to the revolution, according to “The Future of Jobs” report published by the World Economic Forum, an event held in Davos, Switzerland, last year. This loss is predicted to be partially offset by the creation of 2.1 million new jobs.

According to a survey of experts by the Korea Employment Information Service, released Tuesday, 16.3 million of the 26.59 million currently employed Koreans could be replaced by robots and AI technology by 2025.

Other issues worth discussing are social and welfare problems, which may emerge in a worst-case scenario -- technological change accompanied by mass unemployment.

Income polarization should also be dealt with as a high priority problem, because some jobs are threatened by redundancy.

To prevent mass unemployment, retraining workers will be critical.

It is not possible to weather the technological revolution by waiting for the next generation of the workforce to become better prepared. The government should create an environment that enables individuals to learn about new technologies and helps businesses to retain workers.

A so-called “robot tax” and the implementation of a guaranteed basic income also merit discussion.

The European Union is trying to write a law regarding the rise of robots, as they take away human jobs. One suggestion is that robots should pay social security taxes. What this really means is that those who employ robots to replace human labor should pay higher taxes.

The idea of unconditional basic-income schemes, which were first proposed decades ago, resurfaced at the WEF forum last year.

The upside of cutting-edge technologies should not be overlooked. In the new industrial age, technology will not only substitute but also complement human labor. Jobs that help boost computing power -- which is certain to grow exponentially -- should be fostered.

Now that the government is setting up a control tower to formulate strategies in preparation for the looming fourth industrial revolution, it should fully discuss a broad range of issues, particularly job losses, before working out the roadmap.
(END)

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