A new report published Thursday suggests that robots could make the gender pay gap even worse, stoking existing fears and uncertainty around the concept of automation.
In a paper titled “Managing automation Employment, inequality and ethics in the digital age,” the Institute for Public Policy Research argued that a greater share of jobs that women hold—46.8% versus 40.9% for men—have the technical potential to be automated since female workers are more likely to hold low-skill “automatable” occupations. Paired with women’s underrepresentation in high-skill occupations that may be complemented by technology, that means that automation could exacerbate gender inequality.
“Automation,” IPPR says, “is more likely to accelerate inequalities of wealth and income than create a future of mass joblessness.”
Initially, IPPR says, automation could narrow the gender pay gap since it would displace women from jobs that tend to earn below-average pay. (According to the latest OECD data, the gender wage gap in the U.K. is 17.1%; in the U.S., it’s 18.9%.) But that progress would remain only if displaced women re-entered the labor market at around the new average salary for their gender. That’s unlikely, IPPR says. Some industries dominated by women (such as retail or child and elderly care) are seeing less investment in productivity-raising technology, perhaps because the current human labor is so cheap.Read More