Change is happening, but do we understand it?

Guy Ryder, the director general of the International Labour Organisation has seen it all: the years when the global business elite is brimful of confidence and the years, such as 2017, when the top 1% of the top 1% is fretful. Ryder detected parallels with 2009, when the global economy seemed to be heading for a second Great Depression . Eight years ago, the attendees of the WEF were shaken by the banking collapse but showed little contrition. This year they were alarmed by the populist anger that was evident in Brexit and Donald Trump’ s arrival in the White House but couldn’t really understand why it was happening. “The global elite has been saying all week that the public doesn’t really understand all the good things they are doing for it,” Ryder says.

Two ways of thinkingSwissCognitive

There were two distinct camps at the WEF. In the first group were the really dumb ones: those who think that what happened in 2016 was an aberration and that globalisation will be back on track as soon as voters in advanced countries come to their senses. In the second camp were those – the policymakers rather than the chief executives of the big multinational corporations – who understand that the only way to save global capitalism is to reform it in a fundamental way, just as it was after the economic horrors of the 1930s.

Does Uni pay off?

This second group has sniffed the way the wind is blowing. Studies have shown that technological change rather than trade has been responsible for the vast majority of the jobs lost in manufacturing in the developed world. Put simply, machines have replaced humans. Robots have taken over factories. Seen in this light, the looming threat is obvious. The first army of machines wiped out well-paid jobs in manufacturing; the second army is about to wipe out well-paid jobs in the service sector. In many cases, the people who will be surplus to requirements will have spent many years in school and university building up their skills […]