Automation, Surplus Populations, and the Case of the OECD

Adam Matias Dong Hoffmeyer & Haoyu Ma

Studenteropgave: Kandidatprojekt


Robots are taking our jobs! A claim which wakes instinctive fear reactions in many people based on our desire to feel useful and needed by the society we live in. In recent years, news stories in the biggest news platforms from all corners of the world have taken that claim as a point of departure (Shewan, 2017; Kelly, 2018; Gardels, 2018; Jericho, 2018; Bartleby, 2018; Cooper, 2018, Clarín, 2018). But whose jobs are going to be taken over? Are the same job types going to disappear in different countries? Will top managers and elites be safe in this wave of automation? Will automation bring with it inequality? Is it even true that automation is going to hurt the job market or are we rather experiencing another false alarm about the disappearance of human jobs? And will automation then improve our working conditions and daily life quality?

These questions might define the debate on automation in the coming decades. However, one cannot easily make conclusions about what automation means to this era or whether or not “this time is different” compared to earlier waves of automation. The alarm for a jobless future was sounded with the inventions of weaving machines, automobiles, automated assembly lines and yet we find ourselves still working. So a very central question in this debates which we will repeatedly be focusing on in this paper is, if this time is different. And if so, will automation be the root of surplus populations? Surplus populations consist of people who are not needed by society and whose existence is therefore a burden for society rather than an asset. Beneath the fear of automation, it is the fear of surplus populations (and perhaps subconsciously the fear of becoming a surplus citizen) that can cause the debate on the topic to be quite fierce. By some, it is argued that automation will lead to the emergence of large, excessive groups of people and that these in turn can become a dangerous element in society due to their expected dissatisfaction. When ideas like these are aired, they spark immediate and powerful reactions from the public.

UddannelserGlobal Studies, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdatodec. 2018
Antal sider55
VejledereNina Torm


  • Automatisering
  • OECD
  • Jobs
  • Robotter