There are currently 90,000 vacancies in social care and 24,000 in nursing. A chronic labour shortage in British social services has risen from 7% six years ago to 11% today. Education is suffering likewise. Employers across the health, construction, agriculture, travel and hospitality sectors are screaming that Brexit heralds an employment disaster, as the EU migrant tap is turned off.
The idea that algorithms, robots and 3D computer printing will render these booming industries redundant is silly. Clearly new technology will mechanise a number of activities. As throughout history, innovation requires labour markets to shift and people – or their offspring – to retrain. The reality of economic history is that technology and trade yield short-term disruption. The same thing happened with refrigerated transport in the 1880s and combine harvesting between the wars. But we survived and prospered as new needs, and jobs, emerged. Haldane’s gloom merely serves the looming politics of protectionism and chauvinism.
The latest cliche, the “fourth industrial revolution”, supposedly describes a new algorithmic age. If there is to be a fourth revolution it will be the complete opposite, a reversion to the economy of human experience.