Automation causing job loss is sure a problem.

On the other hand, we will face lots of elderly people, at least in Western countries, so also clearly declining supply of workforce.

Could both processes produce a zero sum so both problems naturally disappear?

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    I think the two contradicting answers that you've got (both citing sources) show that your premise that "Automation causing job loss is sure a problem." is controversial. So how that will play out in balance with demographics is even more so. This questions is just gonna be too speculative for a Q&A format. The answer could be anything depending who you ask and what scenario they look at. – Fizz Aug 16 '18 at 14:42
  • There's also a problem with the assumption that many "elderly" people can't work, or wouldn't choose to do so if not for age discrimination. – jamesqf Aug 16 '18 at 17:34
  • @jamesqf if you extrapolate, people just die away and population shrinks. – J. Doe Aug 16 '18 at 18:56
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    False premise, the world's only countries with significant demographic declines are in Eastern Europe, and Japan. – Bregalad Aug 16 '18 at 20:19
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    See bain.com/insights/… for some scenarios. – Fizz Aug 17 '18 at 9:24

Yes and No. Depends on what angle you look at.

For example, the glaring headline can read:

Automation could kill 73 million U.S. jobs by 2030 (USA Today citing 2017 McKinsey 2017 report).

That is clearly impossible to offset by normal US demographics rate change.

But, if you dig into details of the report, it's nowhere near as gloomy:

In the U.S., 39 million to 73 million jobs could be destroyed, but about 20 million of those displaced workers can be shifted fairly easily into similar occupations, though they may take on slightly different tasks, the report says. That means 16 million to 54 million workers — or as much as a third of the U.S. workforce — will need to be retrained for entirely new occupations.

So, the best case scenario is 16Mil, not 73 Mil.

And, once you look into even more depths of the report:

Even under the more rapid spread of the technologies, the authors conclude that the six major countries they studied in detail, including the U.S., should be at or near full employment by 2030.

This is because most of the displaced jobs can be retrained in a reasonable way, anticipated new job growth, and anticipated economic growth due to automation-driven productivity increases. AND, as your question noted, also demographics-driven service job growth:

Also, however, jobs will be created from rising incomes and consumption, an aging population that will demand more health care professionals and investment in infrastructure and renewable energy, the study says.


There's no obvious danger of job loss due to automation

Technological progress has never resulted in higher unemployment. Of course, this time could be different, but this is purely speculative.

Despite tremendous technological progress in the last 200, and the total elimination of multiple professions, new fields emerged, and the unemployment is at all time lows. People change their occupation, not become unemployed. For example, developed countries (i.e. with higher level of automation) have lower unemployment rates than developing ones, despite requiring much less people to do things.

As for the aging, it's definitely real. However, the effects on the workforce are somewhat offset by immigration and rising life expectancy.

  • This is to an extent correct but doesn't answer the question it seems? – user4012 Aug 16 '18 at 11:43
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    The question is 'can X solve problem Y?'. An answer 'no, because Y isn't a problem at all' is valid. In fact, if the statement is correct (Y isn't a problem), this is the only answer. – Laetus Aug 16 '18 at 12:23
  • +1, frictional unemployment due to technological advancement has always been a worry, while (almost) never being a problem. See: The calculator, personal computer, automobile, pretty much any piece of industrial farming equipment, etc. – GOATNine Aug 16 '18 at 18:31
  • Occupation change often requires gambling on retraining and migration -- both retraining and migration take time, during which the former worker exists in a state of unemployment caused by technology. Sometimes technology improves itself so rapidly that it outpaces retraining and migration -- that is, by the time retraining is complete, the retraining has itself become obsolete and the migration target becomes another boarded-up city of rust... – agc Aug 17 '18 at 6:11
  • Technology may eliminate some jobs, but it creates others. Take for instance the telephone operator: a common job in the first decades of the telephone, but almost entirely eliminated by automation. Yet I'd bet there are far more people employed in telecommunications than when telephone operator jobs were at their peak. – jamesqf Aug 17 '18 at 16:00

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