As far back as the Luddite textile workers who destroyed weaving machinery at the start of the industrial revolution, there has been a fear that each technological advance in the workplace will lead to higher unemployment. But a study of census results in England – the birthplace of the first industrial revolution – reveals that the opposite is the case.
Economists at Deloitte looked at the relationship between jobs and the rise of technology by trawling through census data for England and Wales going back to 1871. They found that instead of taking away work, technology was “the great job-creating machine”.
This is because technology changed jobs rather than replaced them, removing demand for workers in one area and creating new demand for other roles.
The study anticipates the same will happen in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: “Machines will take on more repetitive and laborious tasks, but seem no closer to eliminating the need for human labor than at any time in the last 150 years,” it concludes.