Automation threatens 47 percent of U.S. jobs

By Fred Goldstein on April 17, 2014

A wakeup call for labor movement and working class

Two scholars at Oxford University have made an exhaustive study of 702 U.S. occupations and new techniques in automation. They concluded that 47 percent of existing jobs are at high risk of being automated in the next decade or so.

The authors, Carl Benedikt Fey and Michael Osborne, studied machine learning (ML) and mobile robotics (MR), the latest developments in automation that have enabled robots to handle complex, nonroutine tasks. The study, entitled “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerization?” showed trends flow­ing from what has already been done to jobs in order to project present and future possibilities. (Oxford Martin School, Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology)

Marxism and long-term unemployment

By Fred Goldstein on April 5, 2014

A study published by Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute in January compiled figures on unemployment that have important significance for the working class and for a Marxist analysis of the present dead-end crisis of capitalism.

The figures in the study confirm that the bosses’ need for labor power at all skill levels and in all occupations drastically declined between 2007 and the year ending July 2013. This is further confirmation of Marx’s general law of capitalist accumulation discussed in our last column.

Shierholz was rightly trying to refute the widespread campaign by the publicists for the bosses about how unemployment is caused by a “skills mismatch” — workers not having the right skills or enough skills to get all those jobs out there that are going begging.

The study, “Is There Really a Shortage of Skilled Workers?” thoroughly refutes the “skills shortage” argument. (epi.org, Jan. 23)

Capitalist electoral politics and class struggle

By Fred Goldstein September 17, 2012

Adapted from a talk given at the Sept. 7 New York City meeting of Workers World Party.

At the moment of this writing, the Chicago Teachers Union has set a splendid example for the working class during this presidential electoral season. They have refused to be swept away by the electoral tide, in which both parties are financed by hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate money, and are on strike against the Chicago school administration to defend their own rights and the rights of the poor and oppressed communities of the city.

Whatever the politics of the union leadership, what makes this action so politically significant is that it flies in the face of the stampede to the polls. This is, after all, a city whose mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is Barack Obama’s former chief of staff. And this is a time when the president is engaged in a fierce electoral battle against the right-wing Romney-Ryan ticket.

The Chicago teachers represent a sector of the organized working class that has been under severe attack in recent years. In particular, they have experienced first hand the futility of relying on elections.