Tuesday, 19 July 2016

A tip for the race to the bottom

From the annals of uninspired guesswork. "The human race is probably decades away from creating a robo-tailor" I supposed in January. By May, I wasn't so sure "...if they have a robo-cobbler next year, what might happen to the global garment trade, if a viable robo-tailor comes along the year after that?"

Now we're in July and the Graun is reporting that:
The jobs of nearly 90% of garment and footwear workers in Cambodia and Vietnam are at risk from automated assembly lines – or “sewbots” – according to a new report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

There are 9 million people, mostly young women, dependent upon jobs in textiles, garments, and footwear within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) economic area, which includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. These are the workers the ILO identifies as most susceptible to losing their jobs to the new robot workforce.

Sewbots are unlikely to appear in factories in Asia, the report says, but will be installed in destination markets like Europe and the US. It is such a big threat that the ILO urges Asean countries to start planning to diversify to “avoid considerable setbacks in development”.
Moving swiftly on from my miserable failure to cut it as a prophet, or even a pundit, the interesting thing about this story is the on-shoring aspect. The work that corporations in the rich world exported, because poorer people would do it for a relative pittance, may be about to come back. But most of the jobs aren't, because robots will be doing them.

At least the title of one of my posts still stands - "Robots win race to the bottom?"