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1 January 2022

Employees who fear technology-induced unemployment more likely to retrain

Estimated reading time: 2 Minutes

Workers who feel their job is at greater risk due to technological advancements are more willing to seek retraining opportunities, according to researchers from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford and University of Zurich.

Their study, Human capital investment and perceived automation risks: Evidence from 16 countries, utilised an extensive survey of 18,000 workers. It found that 30% of respondents feared losing their job to technology. Women, young workers, and those on lower incomes are more likely to be worried about the impact of technology on their career.

The study shows that those who feel at higher risk of automation-induced unemployment are more likely to express intentions to gain new professional skills in their free time. "The effect of fear on retraining intentions is positive and significant. This link is particularly strong for those who feel in control of their own destiny and circumstances - referred to in the study as having an 'internal locus of control'," explains Stefania Innocenti, co-author and Research Lecturer at the Smith School. This finding is cause for concern, the authors believe, because the dynamic between fear of automation and having an internal locus of control could widen existing labour market inequalities.

"To address this issue, policies must be implemented that create a culture of learning. Automatic opt-in schemes could prove useful to prepare workers for new jobs and shelter them from automation risks, especially for those individuals who are least likely to take actions on their own account," says co-author Marta Golin of the University of Zurich.

The research uncovered variations in how workers across different countries perceive the threat of automation. Workers in Germany and Finland are least likely to worry about the threat that technology or automation poses to their jobs. But in Malaysia and UAE, over 50% of respondents reported being concerned.

"Our study suggests that educational policy initiatives that create more retraining opportunities could be key to protecting social mobility in an age of rapid technological advancement. However, such policies must consider the different ways workers perceive and react to these changes," states Stefania.

Summary

Workers who feel their job is at greater risk due to technological advancements are more willing to seek retraining opportunities, according to researchers from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford and University of Zurich. Their study, Human capital investment and perceived automation risks: Evidence from 16 countries, utilised an extensive survey of 18,000 workers. It found that 30% of respondents feared losing their job to technology. Women, young workers, and those on lower incomes are more likely to be worried about the impact of technology on their career.