Between the pandemic and the labor shortage, automation is having a moment. As help wanted signs remain pervasive, could robots hold the solution — or even a partial one — to the Great American Labor Shortage rocking the hospitality industry? After all, they don’t get sick (though they may break down), take vacation time or need to earn enough to afford the Bay Area’s astronomical housing costs.“It’s possible at some unknown future time that robots will replace humans, but we’re pretty far away from that,” says professor Richard...
Adding robots to factories, retail stores or mines was historically seen as a job killer by workers and the unions that support them. But this year, automation has allowed sectors of the economy to continue producing with fewer people, minimizing the coronavirus risk for workers. U.S. economy reporter Olivia Rockeman explains what that might mean in the long term and what needs to happen to help the displaced.
Host Stephanie Flanders talks with Harvard Economist Richard Freeman about how 2020 has changed the world of work and what the future will hold.
COVID-19 has led to stunning economic disruption. As infection hotspots pop up around the country, states have grappled with excruciating choices between protecting public health and bolstering the economy. Optimizing for both has proven difficult, if not impossible.
Is there anything else you see in the state employment/unemployment data that offers insight into what may lie ahead?
Gerstein: I am concerned that continuing high unemployment rates will lead to higher rates of labor violations, including safety and health, because it will make it harder for workers to speak up. Although it's illegal for employers to retaliate against workers for reporting violations, studies show high rates of such retaliation, even before the pandemic. In a high unemployment situation, the consequences of employer retaliation are even worse because it's more difficult for workers to find a new job. Pre-COVID, there was already a great disparity of bargaining power between employers and workers; that disparity is exacerbated by high unemployment, which may lead to further degraded working conditions. At the same time, the seriousness of COVID-related health risks has also led to an increase in worker organizing and activism. I anticipate and hope that this trend will continue.
Freeman: I always look at the insured unemployment rate, which is the number of people getting unemployment insurance. It has been dropping a bit in the past few months, but largely because some folks are being rehired. The only way to get unemployment down to healthy levels is by creating new jobs, and we see very little there.
Brooke Fox in New York and Steven Bernard in London Financial Times
Economists look back to the Great Depression for clues on the scale of the economic crisis.
Behind Friday’s grim unemployment rate of 14.7 per cent is an even crueler number: there were 42.9m people who were unemployed or underemployed in the US in April, versus 14.8m at the same time last year.
The lowest official observation for the statistic was 54.9 per cent in 1949, when women comprised less than a third of the labour force. The fact that they now make up half makes the drop even more shocking, said Richard Freeman, Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics at Harvard University.... Read more about Few precedents for grim US jobless numbers
Uber drivers launched a worldwide strike days before the ride sharing giant’s IPO. Drivers went on strike to demand transparency and a living wage. All workers want a living wage, but there is something more that organizations can learn from these drivers and other gig economy workers. The Uber drivers choose to remain in the gig economy, even though a traditional job might offer better pay and benefits, because they have control over their time. In fact, they value the ability to pick up a kid from school, be there for a sick...
For science to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges in improving human health, protecting the environment and ensuring national security, scientific research should be transparent and collaborative.
In the U.S., the openness in which scientists conduct their work mirrors the openness of the American society. This transparent environment attracts top talent from around the world.
Furthermore, the talent of diverse scientists working in the U.S. fosters meaningful collaboration.
“It’s a great thing when people from overseas want to come and work with Americans because they feel we have an extremely positive scientific culture,” said Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard University who has studied the impact of collaboration on research. “You have people from so many different backgrounds and from so many countries — I think that has contributed to the strength of American science.”... Read more about How Science Works in the U.S.
The study, published by Qingnan Xie of Nanjing University and Richard Freeman of NBER, argues that the world has been underestimating China’s contribution to science. So far, the way country-level contributions are measured is based on how many scientific papers have authors with an address in a particular country. But the new study argues that using addresses does not account for cases in which, for instance, Chinese researchers author a paper while working at a US university.
Correcting for those sorts of mistakes, the authors find that Chinese researchers now publish more scientific papers than others. Roughly one in four scientific papers published has an author with a Chinese name or address. If Chinese-language papers are included, then the figure jumps up to 37%. By comparison, China contributes around 15% to global GDP.
Vivek Wadhwa has been named a Distinguished Fellow with the Labor and Worklife program at Harvard Law School “to help with what I consider to be the most important research project of our times: to understand the impact of technology on jobs and develop policies to mitigate the dangers.”
Thirty-six distinguished economists and professors of law and economics including three Nobel laureates, two recipients of the American Economic Association’s prestigious John Bates Clark Medal, and two past presidents of the American Economic Association filed an amici curiae brief to assist the Supreme Court in understanding the free-rider problem at issue in Janus v. AFSCME.
Richard B. Freeman, who holds the Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics at Harvard University, and is currently serving as Faculty co-Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at the Harvard Law School, was on of the 36 signers.