Worstall on Robots and Jobs, by David Henderson


Tim Worstall, referring to my article that I posted on yesterday, makes an important point I should have made. Here are two highlights:

The Keynes point is here in Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren. What Henderson says about it is entirely true, but it’s incomplete, as was Keynes on this. As I say, both will go “Ah, yes” when bearded on this (well, maybe the ghost of Keynes). The biggest change in working hours over this past century is the fall in household working hours for women. I’ve seen one estimate which says that it took 60 hours of drudge work back in 1930 to run a household, today it’s about 15 hours. I tend to think both those numbers are a little exaggerated, the first up, the second down, but still roughly correct.

What happened to all that work? We automated it. Ha Joon Chang and Hans Roslin refer to it as the “washing machine” but they mean that grab all of domestic technology, not just the washing machine, but the gas or electric stove, the microwave, the vacuum cleaner and on and on to the Roomba and the takeaway restaurant and the chilled prepared food aisle at the supermarket. It’s precisely this which enabled the economic (near if you want to still complain about it) equality of women. Once that household work was automated then they could, and did, righteously, come out into the world of market paid work. Do note that this rise of female market work is only the second largest change in working hours over the past century–that decline of household work is larger than the rise of paid. This must be so as leisure hours have increased over the same time.

The whole article by Tim, which is not long, is worth reading. It’s “The Robots Stealing Human Jobs–Bring It On,” Forbes.com, August 19, 2017.

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