Investments for the Future Strategy 2017, the latest growth strategy of the Shinzo Abe Cabinet, places the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, as the top priority for growth promotion policies in Japan. However, the negative impacts of these technologies, especially the loss of human jobs, have been actively discussed around the world. In the July issue of the RIETI Report, we present the column "Assessing the impact of AI and robotics on job expectations using Japanese survey data" by RIETI Vice President/Vice Chairman Masayuki Morikawa.
Morikawa reviews some of the related literature on the impact of AI and robotics on human jobs, showing a wide disparity in the estimation among leading researchers. In spite of widespread interest in this topic, studies in economics are still in the initial stages and quantitative empirical studies have been limited, thus Morikawa introduces the results of his survey of personnel from a large number of Japanese firms to collect subjective assessments of the possible impacts. Younger people tend to fear losing their jobs to technology, while those with postgraduate education are less pessimistic about such situation. Finally, Morikawa concludes that malleable/adaptable skills acquired through higher education, particularly in science and engineering, are complementary with new technologies such as AI and robotics. At the same time, occupation-specific skills acquired by attending professional schools or holding occupational licenses, particularly those related to human-intensive personal services, are not easily replaced by AI and robotics.
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Assessing the impact of AI and robotics on job expectations using Japanese survey data
Amid the stagnant productivity and potential growth rates in major advanced economies, policymakers expect the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, to drive future economic growth. In Japan, Investments for the Future Strategy 2017, the latest growth strategy of the Shinzo Abe Cabinet, places the Fourth Industrial Revolution as the top priority for growth promotion policies. On the other hand, the negative impacts of AI and robotics, especially loss of human jobs, have been actively discussed around the world.
Impact of AI and robots on human jobs
According to an influential study by Frey and Osborne (2017), about 47% of total US employment faces the risk of being computerised. Their study attracted attention not only from researchers, but also policymakers around the world. David (2017) applies a similar methodology to Japan to estimate that 55% of employment is susceptible to being replaced by computers. On the other hand, Arntz et al. (2016), taking a task-based approach, estimate that the share of automatable jobs in the 21 OECD countries is only 9%, which is far smaller than the figure derived from the occupation-based approach employed by Frey and Osborne (2017). The point of their task-based study is that some of the tasks contained in high-risk occupations cannot be easily computerised. In addition, computers and robots may create new products and services, and these product innovations will result in currently unimaginable new occupations (Mokyr et al. 2015). Furthermore, new automation technologies and some types of labour are highly complementary (Autor 2015).