Millennials see robots as job creators rather than a threat

World Economic Forum 2016: Robot HUBO

HUBO, a multifunctional walking humanoid robot lifts a piece of wood in front of the logo on the opening day of the 2016 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. Switzerland, Tuesday. [World Economic Forum/]

Young people remain optimistic about the impact of robots and artificial intelligence in the work place, as a large majority of them believe that more jobs will be created than will disappear, according to a global poll published on Monday (28 August).

Despite the numerous reports and warnings about the risk of job losses due to the introduction of smarter robots in factories and artificial intelligence in white collar posts, from customer service to banking, young workers are not afraid of the future.

A strong majority (79%) of young people between 18-35, known as ‘millennials’, believe technology is creating more jobs than it is destroying, according to a worldwide survey published today by the World Economic Forum, the organisation hosting the annual Davos forum.

The Global Shapers Annual Survey 2016 included more than 31,000 people from 186 countries.

Millennials do not see robots as job killers. Instead, most of them believe that the future is in their hands. However, almost a half of them (46%) consider that those who are not skilled in technology will find it increasingly hard to get a job in the future.

According to the European Commission, two-fifths of the EU workforce have little or no digital skills. Despite continued high levels of unemployment, by 2020 there could be 756,000 unfilled jobs in the European ICT.

The optimism of those who will be the first in line to feel the impact of the fourth industrial revolution contrasts with the numerous reports and opinions issued by experts and organisations such as Oxford University, the IMF or the WEF itself.

Pre-Davos report calls for reforming capitalism to survive global backlash

The World Economic Forum study warns that democracy is in “deeper crisis” and urges for more inclusive growth amid the growing inequalities fuelled by technological disruption.

Healthcare, education and basic industries will be the sectors benefiting the most by the latest tech developments, the poll indicated.

But these positive views do not mean that millennials are robot-lovers. More than a half of them do not trust machines to take decisions on their behalf (51%). Almost the same percentage would not support granting rights to humanoid robots.

Only in China, a  sizeable percentage (42%) would support rights for humanoid robots.

Robotics and artificial intelligence are seen as the next big technology trend (45%), followed by the internet of things (23%) and machine learning (13%).

Corruption a global concern

The millennials also expressed their views on other pressing issues in fields including business, politics, economy or their career.

A shared concern across regions was corruption. As the authors highlighted, it was “remarkable” that this was one of the few responses selected by an outright majority globally, and the top choice in every region worldwide.

Does corruption threaten Europe?

Current debate rarely attributes the rise of populism in European politics to the perceived prevalence of corruption. Yet public opinion often shows that citizens believe their representatives to be corrupt, write Laurence Cockcroft and Anne-Christine Wegener.

If young people could fix one thing in their country, it was corruption, seen as the most serious issue in their nations (57%).

Millennials also believe corruption is the biggest driver of inequality in their economies, according to 58% of them.

Moreover, the abuse of power and corruption is mentioned by 58% of them as the issue that frustrates them most about their government.

More broadly, climate change is seen as the biggest global concern for the second year in a row (45%), followed by large-scale conflicts (38%) and religious conflicts (34%).

Despite the new US President Donald Trump’s unpopularity across the world, and in particular among young people, and despite the restrictions he has imposed on travellers from some Muslim countries, the USA remains the top place where millennials would like to advance their career, followed by Canada (12%).

Among the European countries, the UK is the most attractive job market (10%), followed by Germany (8%).

Davos admits to globalisation's failures, falls short of solutions

The World Economic Forum concluded its four-day gathering by calling for more inclusive growth to face growing populism and the backlash against globalisation

Subscribe to our newsletters