Massive unemployment threat requires real solutions

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Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

The last federal budget attempted to stimulate the economy and thereby

Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

The last federal budget attempted to stimulate the economy and thereby
create jobs.  Donald Trump won the USA presidential election by promising to, among other things, curtail out-of-country manufacturing by forcing American companies to manufacture in the United States and create more American jobs. The British public decided to leave the European Union because they blamed job losses on the free movement of labour within the Union.  There is no doubt that unemployment rates in Canada, the United States, Great Britain, and many industrial countries are high and this situation is deemed a major cause of the rise of the extreme right and current political uncertainties. But will any of these measures address the real issues?
In the longer term (15 to 25 years), the cause of high unemployment will not be overseas location of manufacturing facilities nor the arrival of large numbers of immigrants and refugees. The main cause of unemployment will be automation – the use of computers, robots and artificial intelligence.
A recent study from the University of Oxford in Great Britain predicts that developed nations will see job loss rates of 47% within the next 25 years. This unemployment plague will hit not only the unskilled workers, but also the professional and service sectors; doctors, lawyers, teachers, computer programmers and engineers. Even those in professional sports and entertainment will be affected. Finding a viable solution to this looming crisis will take considerable time and ingenuity on the part of the government and citizens and the effort should start now. But none of the nations (including Canada) have any plan or strategy to address the issue.
Early retirement will not be enough. Our educational system will require drastic innovation. Tax policies, work-place innovation, social security and a meaningful life for each member of society must be reviewed and redefined in the face of the overwhelming possibility of the limited requirements for traditional employment. The work and recreation balance will have to be redefined, not just adjusted. One major requirement for Canada will be close cooperation among all levels of
government. There must be fewer “turf wars” over who has jurisdiction and more effort on implementing real solutions at the level where they can
be most effective and financed by the most efficient means. 
With proper planning, the threat of massive unemployment can be met and mitigated. But planning and action must start now. Our governments at all levels need to engage in a long-term commitment to ensure meaningful living standards for all citizens. The benefits gained by increased automation should be shared by all. The current trend, where only the privileged few benefit from automation, needs to be changed. A new social paradigm that recognizes the need for meaningful endeavours by all is required. Every person should be empowered to develop and utilize their best skills and abilities. The alternative is a society of greater inequality and massive social disruption – a cost that goes well beyond just unemployment.