Rising income inequality has set off fierce political and economic debates, but one important angle hasn’t been explored adequately. We need to ask whether market forces themselves might limit or reverse the trend.
Technology has contributed to the rise in inequality, but there are also some significant ways in which technology could reduce it.
For example, while computers have improved our lives in many ways, they haven’t yet done much to make health care and education cheaper. Over the next few decades, however, that may well change: We can easily imagine medical diagnosis by online artificial intelligence, greater use of online competitive procurement for health care services, more transparency in pricing and thus more competition, and much cheaper online education for many students, to cite just a few possibilities. In such a world, many wage gains would come from new and cheaper services, rather than from being able to cut a better deal with the boss at work.
It is a bit harder to see how information technology can lower housing costs, but perhaps the sharing economy can make it easier to live in much smaller spaces and rent needed items, rather than store them in a house or apartment. That would enable lower-income people to live closer to higher-paying urban jobs and at lower cost.
Another set of future gains, especially for lesser-skilled workers, may come as computers become easier to handle for people with rudimentary skill. Not everyone can work fruitfully with computers now. There is a generation gap when it comes to manipulating electronic devices, and many relevant tasks require knowledge of programming or, more ambitiously, the entrepreneurial skill of creating a start-up. That, in a nutshell, is how our dynamic sector has concentrated its gains among a relatively small number of employees, thus leading to more income inequality.
This particular type of inequality may very well change. As the previous generation retires from the work force, many more people will have grown up with intimate knowledge of computers. And over time, it may become easier to work with computers just by talking to them. As computer-human interfaces become simpler and easier to manage, that may raise the relative return to less-skilled labor.
The future may also extend a growing category of employment, namely workers who team up with smart robots that require human assistance. Perhaps a smart robot will perform some of the current functions of a factory worker, while the human companion will do what the robot cannot, such as deal with a system breakdown or call a supervisor. Such jobs would require versatility and flexible reasoning, a bit like some of the old manufacturing jobs, but not necessarily a lot of high-powered technical training, again because of the greater ease of the human-computer interface. That too could raise the returns to many relatively unskilled workers.
The Latest on: Income inequality
via Google News
The Latest on: Income inequality
- SDG10: Reduce inequality within and among countrieson August 22, 2019 at 5:28 am
SDG10 - the goal to "reduce inequality within and among countries" - "continues to be a significant concern", according to the UN, with income inequality in particular on the rise in many parts of the ...
- SDG10: Is tackling inequality the overlooked key to sustainable development?on August 22, 2019 at 5:13 am
From the way in which gender inequality fuels higher birth rates or exacerbates skills shortages, to the manner in which income inequality creates a fertile territory for those who seek to mobilise ...
- How unpaid internships hurt all workers and worsen income inequalityon August 21, 2019 at 5:00 am
This story is part of Fast Company’s editorial package “The Intern Economy.” In the spirit of back to school and new opportunities to learn beyond the classroom, we’ve collected the personal stories ...
- Business Roundtable Issues Statement On The Need To Help Deal With Income Inequalityon August 19, 2019 at 2:01 pm
A group of 181 CEOs have issued a statement proclaiming the need to help deal with income inequality and working conditions. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with New York Times reporter David Gelles.
- U.S. CEO group says corporations have duty to address income inequality. ‘The American dream is alive, but fraying.’on August 18, 2019 at 11:53 pm
The “shareholder comes first” has for years been the mantra of the Business Roundtable, a group that represents the most powerful CEOs in America and their thinking. A new principles on the role of a ...
- Statistician on a mission to end inequality in the U.S. finds the answer in 'fathers,' 'intact families' and 'social capital'on August 18, 2019 at 5:19 am
The high-opportunity places, they’ve found, tend to share five qualities: good schools, greater levels of social cohesion, many two-parent families, low levels of income inequality, and little ...
- Many Americans Think Economic Inequality Is A Problem — Just Not The Most Pressing Oneon August 16, 2019 at 3:06 am
But Gleckman cautioned me that the public’s support for taxing the wealthy may have less to do with concerns over income inequality and more to do with ensuring the wealthy are not unfairly ...
- Income inequality alone isn’t responsible for the global rise of populismon August 15, 2019 at 11:18 am
The idea is now commonplace that income inequality is inexorably on the rise. The US experience, in particular, has become central to a new grand narrative prominent in public debate and taken to ...
- WATCH: Bernie Sanders Was Asked About Income Inequality Despite His Claim ‘Not One Reporter’ Ever Askedon August 14, 2019 at 8:41 am
Independent Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders defended his media criticism, in part, by claiming that “not one reporter has ever asked” him about income inequality, ...
- Income Inequality Is The Party Spoiler As Social Security Turns 84on August 14, 2019 at 2:05 am
Social Security is celebrating its 84 th birthday on August 14. The program has shown its staying power and importance for middle-class economic security over the decades. Its benefits are ...
via Bing News