Facing the rising TIDE: The labor market policy implications of automation

Source: Dilbert

So about a month ago, the Department of Labor released a draft strategic plan for the next 5 fiscal years.  Curiously, the 40-page document made no mention of the impact of automation, which poses perhaps the greatest policy challenge that the labor market has seen since the DOL was formed 105 years ago.  So I teamed up with several other attorneys at my firm and Prime Policy Group–with input from several participants in a robotics and AI roundtable that my firm hosted in DC last month–to write an open letter to the Secretary of Labor explaining why automated systems need more attention than they currently receive.

The Cliff’s Notes version of the comments is this sentence from the intro:

[T]he Department of Labor, in cooperation with other government agencies and private industry, should take proactive steps to provide American workers with the skills necessary to participate in the labor market for these emerging technologies, which promise to revolutionize the global economy and labor market during the coming years, and to implement measures designed to ensure that workers whose jobs are vulnerable to automation are not left behind.

We came up with a catchy acronym for the labor market disruption that automation causes: technology-induced displacement of employees (TIDE). It wasn’t until I was deep into working on the letter that it truly sunk in what a huge challenge this is going to be. Sadly, governments in developed countries are barely paying attention to these issues right now, despite the fact that automation appears to be right on the cusp of disrupting the labor market in seemingly every industry.

The full comments are available here.

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