Is it possible to predict the labour market of the future?

15 januari 2019

Oskar Nordström Skans, Professor of Economics, heads a research team that will investigate how technological developments affect the labour market.

Oskar Nordström Skans, Professor of Economics, has received funding from the Swedish Research Council to develop the research environment “Technological development and the future labour market”.

What are you going to do?

“We will conduct empirical studies of how today’s labour market is affected by the introduction of robots and other new technologies. Which industries and occupations are affected? Will new companies using new technology take over markets or will existing companies that adopt automation do so? How will employees whose tasks are replaced by new technologies cope with this? And how will this affect their colleagues? Are they winners or losers? At this point we know rather little about how new technology affects today’s labour market and what the results will be.”

Will there be changes due to the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI)?

“Yes, but in the case of AI, another important question is what the new technology actually will take over. It is not always just technological capabilities that determine if something is implemented. This also requires acceptance on the part of customers and recipients, which is more difficult to assess.”

What research methods will you use?

“We primarily will conduct statistical surveys within the framework of the well-developed system of Swedish registry data.”

Why is it important to get a better picture of technology’s impact on the labour market?

“Discussions about the labour market present a dramatic picture of what will happen when robots take over more and more tasks. That picture may be right, but we do not know this. So it is important to gain an accurate picture of how things look today and try to see what the future labour market is going to look like based on the current situation. That is important in making political and economic decisions, but also in areas such as trade union strategies.”

What will you be able to say about the labour market of the future?

“Based on a well-grounded understanding of the present, we hope we can make better statements about the future. In the United States, for example, a forecasting institution has previously made relatively good predictions about the automation of tasks. We can connect their predictions about what parts of the labour market will be automated with our studies of the current situation in these particular occupations and industries in order to create a better picture of the future.

But we will also use other methods, such as machine reading of adverts for job openings. The jobs being advertised today indicate what employers believe their labour needs will be in the future, so studying how adverts are formulated is a way of looking ahead.”

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Facts

The Swedish Research Council has granted more than SEK 17 million over a six-year period to develop the research environment “Technological development and the future labour market”.

The research team will include about 10 researchers and doctoral students in economics, political science and law.