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Toil and technology

Policymakers need to know which way technology is headed. If it replaces workers, they will need to cope with ever-growing unemployment and widening economic inequality. But if the primary problem is displacement, they will mainly have to develop a workforce with new specialized skills. The two problems call for very different solutions. Despite fears of widespread technological unemployment, I argue that the data show technology today largely displacing workers to new jobs, not replacing them entirely. Of the major occupational groups, only manufacturing jobs are being eliminated persistently in developed economies—and these losses are offset by growth in other occupations.