I thought of the recent and past trends of unemployment and I see a clear sign that the technological unemployment won't be smaller than it is now, it increases with time.

Take these facts:

  • Automation reduces the neccessary human workforce.
  • Automation generally makes the mass production cheaper.
  • Population of the world rising.

What creates tension is:

  • People's need of goods are increasing while their job opportunities are decreasing.
  • To handle the situation various - even non-socialist - parties try the socialist way: create needless jobs and maintain the human workforce as high as it can be in public sector.
  • On the most productive part of the world, where the labor is cheap, the workers sooner or later will demand better life for their hard work, like it happened in Japan (50s-60s vs today).

My question is: does any ideology or political formation deal with this problem? Can it be dealt and not cause bigger harm than the technological unemployment itself?

  • 2
    Your 1st/3rd bulletpoints are inaccurate. In the USA we track employment, and employmnt is approximately 40% of the population (not adjusted for "working age" 18-65). You will see a huge shift to technical workers from 1910 to 2000 (5% to 25% of all employees). Similarly, rich countries population levels off as they get richer.
    – user1873
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 18:18
  • 2
    Automation does not reduce the necessity for human workforce, it shifts the sector. The trend in the developing world over the last 50 years was for jobs to flow from manufacturing into service.
    – MrFox
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 19:24
  • They pretty much all do in one way or another. I think you are actually looking for a economic solution not a political one. This question is just too broad. What specific aspect of the issue do you want to understand better? Commented May 7, 2014 at 20:22
  • @Chad I afraid politics unless they propagating lassies faire, they are involving very deeply into economic matters, and since they are willing to tax more and try to hide the actual problems with unemployment subsidies and greatly increased government (or government related) jobs, I assume maybe somebody thought about this matter in political level. Commented May 8, 2014 at 6:53
  • @MrFox service industry is neccessary, far from saying anything like that, but what percent would be the desired rate of service industry? Would a country with several millions of people be functional with nearly 100% service industry? I feel like the jobs are there for just suck up the needless workforce and pump money them only to suck up the free time of these people, and keep circulating money. Commented May 8, 2014 at 6:56

2 Answers 2


You are asking a fairly broad question, so I need to tackle a few points before answer it directly.

Why are some nations more wealthy than others?

The economic term is called total factor productivity - it measures how much stuff a country can produce given a certain amount of inputs (land, capital, labour, etc). Improving this number is the only way to have economic growth in the long term. Over the last 200-300 years the main driver behind changing this number was technological progress - we learned to produce things better with fewer people involved, less materials used, etc.

Unemployment due to technological change

A technological change, as you noted, has potential to create unemployment. However, the unemployment created is transitional not systemic. The reason is that our wants are unlimited, so when you can have one product or service for cheaper due to a technological change, you will just end up having extra money to spend it elsewhere. For example, if cars become cheaper (which they have, in real terms over the last few decades) you will spend the money on other goods. So the people who were displaced from car manufacturing plants can transition into jobs producing those other goods. The total wealth of the society will increase in the process, as we will have more stuff given the same amount of inputs (alternatively we will have the same amount of stuff but we could produce it by working less, involving less capital, etc).

Transitional Unemployment

Now the problem is that sometimes it's not very easy to transition jobs. There are towns built around car manufacturing plants, and when they cut workers, people may not have an easy recourse. People may also be invested into a certain skill set which becomes unneeded. To solve this problem, governments have typically sponsored re-education programs, or tried to incentivise businesses to open similar plants in the areas that have been impacted by this kind of unemployment (eg. open a hair dryer plant close to where a car manufacturing plant used to be).

Keep in mind, the unemployment created by this technological change is one-time. The next generation of people will have a different skill set and will not be impacted by this. The only concern is to mitigate the negative impact on the people who are immediately displaced by this change. But, society as a whole gets wealthier. All other consumers get products for less, thus implicitly have greater purchasing power. This is not a systemic problem, and therefore there is no ideology around it.

  • This isnt really an answer to the question, but its as close as you can probably come with a question this broad so +1 Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:26

Basic Income is often held up as the method to deal with widespread unemployment as a result of mass automation. They hold basic income as a panacea to end all poverty and view the future of almost everyone not working because automation has taken over everywhere as a utopia.

The belief that automation will actually take over everything is not a majority one though. Others point out that there have already been massive improvements made in many fields, especially agriculture, that may have changed the amount of people working in a sector, but with a short lag time those displaced workers were absorbed elsewhere.

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