Advancing technology, reducing jobs

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Mike Wootton

Mike Wootton

Let’s start with the way in which “security” can complicate simple things. I remember not so very long ago arriving late at an airport running across the apron and then hopping on a plane. I think I gave my ticket to the cabin crew. Really simple.

Catching planes is now a nightmare prospect, check this, check that, check the other. Take your shoes, jacket, belt off, declare any liquids, don’t take a cigarette lighter etc, etc, etc. So much so that travelling to distant places which used to be quite good fun, is now just a dreary trial. “But it’s for your own safety, sir” and usually said with a smile – bit difficult to counter that generalization!

But catching planes is not the worst demonstration of security “for your own safety”. Transferring money or paying for things online is an area of huge difficulty – everybody is assumed to be a money launderer or scammer of some sort. I am told that to make an internet banking transfer [“24/7 service”] of a few hundred dollars from HSBC Hong Kong to HSBC Philippines is an exercise which requires the transfer to be routed through HSBC UK or HSBC USA, prior to its being “carefully validated” by HSBC Philippines, for credit to the account to which it was remitted. This, of course, takes time so in the end the remitter has no idea when the funds will ever reach the targeted account. And to add insult to injury the transfer sometimes gets misplaced along the way.

The banks, the “too big to fail” institutions following exposure of their highly profitable business dealings with Pablo Escobar and many other shady but very wealthy characters, are now suffering from a need to exercise some form of governance control over their activities. They seem to find this something of a challenge with the result that the customer is the one inconvenienced.

There is much in the way of job creation in the context of security. Look at the number of security guards there are around the Philippines – is it really as dangerous as the huge numbers of guards make it appear to be?

Creating jobs where jobs don’t really exist, or which would not exist if those who are doing them were better trained or motivated is fairly evident in the area of security in the Philippines, at the moment. If the banks, for example, were to use some of their ill-gotten huge profits in the development and implementation of technology which would make transactions easier [rather than just “more secure”]for the average customer, and which bank staff could also understand, then their staff numbers could be substantially reduced and customers may naively hope that the banks charges would reduce as a result.

But all of the foregoing is to bring me to the point about jobs in the future. Populations are growing at a rate of about a quarter of a million a day. Whilst the number of available jobs is not declining at quite such a fast rate as that technology is reducing, opportunities for employment and over time this will create a large pool of people for whom jobs are simply not available, whatever their needs and whatever their skills. Even in the Philippines where there is high underemployment and unemployment, the need for people is remorselessly being reduced. So where will the money come from to feed the families with no means of earning because the necessary number of jobs just don’t exist?

Thinking should be done by governments as to how to deal with this alarming looking future, where the need for people to do things is reduced to such a degree that many just have no opportunity to earn a living. Looks to me as if some form of welfare state needs to be developed, which should be funded by those at the top of the world’s wealth trees – in Russia, for example, the top 1 percent of the population control 74 percent of the nation’s wealth, and worldwide, the top 10 percent control 89 percent of the worlds wealth. A job for the United Nations, perhaps…?

Mike can be contacted at mawootton@gmail.com

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