Why the robot boom in manufacturing is actually a good thing

The robot from the movie "Chappie." Declines in manufacturing employment aren\'t just a reaction to economic conditions - one big factor behind them has been increasing automation.

I haven\’t seen Chappie, which opened in cinemas this past weekend, and apparently neither have many other folks. The robot-cop flick C which depicts the trials and tribulations of the rebellious police droid in Johannesburg C has gotten generally terrible reviews, and managed to limp towards the No. 1 box office spot only because the field of flicks in early March is really weak. Maybe the general public is just growing fed up with watching movies about robots doing what humans i did so. Maybe it\’s just too much like real life.

After all, real jobs seem pretty tricky to find. One of the thorniest questions presented by the current economic \”recovery\” continues to be why it\’s not producing more full-time, well-paying employment. In Canada, the majority of what little job growth we have seen has been in part-time jobs and self-employment. Yes, there is the impact of the oil shock, which is cratering high-paying jobs within the oil patch, but there\’s plenty of evidence that deteriorating (or at best not improving) job quality is really a structural issue. Like a recent job quality report from CIBC stated, part-time jobs have been growing in a far faster pace than full-time because the 1980s, and also the self-employed sector has grown four times faster than paid employment. Meanwhile, low-paying full-time jobs (many of them in service sectors) show much stronger growth than mid- or high-paying jobs.

With the plunge within the loonie and the low interest promulgated by the Bank of Canada, lots of focus for remedy has been placed on the Canadian manufacturing sector, which theoretically should be more competitive globally and better positioned to grow its employment base. But clearly, the \”when\” of accelerating manufacturing capacity and corresponding job growth is an open question. Over the past decade, our manufacturing sector lost up to 50 % a million jobs, and factory output remains below pre-recession levels. Even assuming that rate cuts will spur more capital investment and hiring in manufacturing, returning to \”pre-recession\” normals C if the Canadian sector ever does C could take years.


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