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全球勞動者對經濟增長的貢獻在不斷下降,自動化主因?

葛繼甫(Geoff Colvin) 2019年07月11日

研究人員指出,如果未來生產力增長的來源依舊是自動化,勞動力的相對地位將會下降。

為什么勞動者對整體經濟產出的貢獻率正在下滑?這是一大謎題。如果你認為情況歷來如此,或者答案顯而易見,那你就錯了。相反,歷經過去兩個世紀的繁榮、蕭條、戰爭和科技革命,勞動力對GDP的貢獻在大部分時間里都保持了相當程度的穩定(美國約為65%)。這個結論在幾十年前第一次被發現時,震驚了每一個人。英國經濟學家約翰·梅納德·凱恩斯稱這“有點像個奇跡”。盡管如此,它看起來是個不爭的事實——勞動者的薪水會隨著GDP一起增長。

不過,當然,這個事實并非不可改變。從20世紀80年代開始,全球勞動力對GDP的貢獻開始下滑。從2000年起,它的下滑速度進一步增加。目前美國勞動力對GDP的貢獻僅有56%,如果與65%的情況進行對比,相當于平均每個家庭的年收入減少了1.1萬美元。在一些國家,勞動力對GDP貢獻率的減少更加突出,尤其是德國,而中國、印度、墨西哥等發展中國家也呈現出這一現象。

所以這究竟是怎么了?首要嫌疑犯是技術,不過這種因果關系沒有看起來那么明顯。畢竟,19世紀的技術進步是革命性的,它們極大地提升了生活水平。而過去30年里技術和財富分配的關系有什么變化?

麻省理工學院(MIT)的達龍·阿西莫格魯和波士頓大學(Boston University)的帕斯奎爾·雷斯特雷波在最近的研究中,以一種全新的方式來分析技術對勞動者施加了何種影響,令人大開眼界。他們指出,自動化總是會淘汰一些崗位,但技術也會創造出新的崗位,例如在19世紀,機械取代了大量農工,卻也創造出了數百萬個制造業的新崗位。這一點可能眾所周知,但關于技術所淘汰和創造出的工作的綜合數據卻無處可查。

所以,研究人員做了大量數值計算,得出了結果。阿西莫格魯表示:“看看第二次世界大戰之后的40年,”這段時期,勞動力對GDP的貢獻率仍舊保持穩定?!霸诖似陂g自動化(淘汰的工作任務)相當多,但也創造出了很多新任務,兩者幾乎相等?!保ㄏ胂敕諛I的那些新崗位,它們在20世紀50年代和60年代在美國經濟中占據的份額大了許多。)“而過去30年里,情況發生了變化,自動化的速度更快了一些,但新任務的引入卻非常、非常慢。這是一個令人吃驚的發現?!?/p>

這也是一大謎題。這項研究的重要推論是:自動化未必對所有勞動者都有好處,這在現代史上還是頭一遭。阿西莫格魯和雷斯特雷波寫道:“我們的證據和概念研究”并不支持“技術變革總是時時處處地造福勞動者的假設。如果未來生產力增長的來源依舊是自動化,勞動力的相對地位將會下降?!?/p>

Here’s a mystery: Why is workers’ share of total economic output declining? If you think that’s been happening forever or that the answer is obvious, you’d be wrong. On the contrary, through most of the past two centuries of booms, busts, wars, and technological revolution, labor’s share of GDP stayed remarkably constant (around 65% in the U.S.). That finding, when first unearthed decades ago, surprised everyone. British economist John Maynard Keynes called it “a bit of a miracle.” Nonetheless, it looked like a fact of life—workers’ pay grows with GDP.

But then, of course, it didn’t. Starting in the 1980s, around the world, labor’s share began to fall slowly. In 2000, it began to fall quickly. Labor share is now 56% in the U.S., which translates into some $11,000 less in annual income for the average household than with a 65% share. The decline has been even steeper in some countries, notably Germany, and has occurred also in developing economies, including China, India, and Mexico.

So what’s going on? The leading suspect is technology, but the causal relationship isn’t as obvious as it may seem. After all, the tech advances of the 19th century were revolutionary, and they improved living standards dramatically. What has changed in the past 30 years about the relationship between technology and wealth distribution?

Recent research by Daron ?Acemoglu of MIT and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University outlines an eye-opening new way of analyzing technology’s effects on workers. Automation always eliminates jobs, they note, and technology also creates new jobs; machinery displaced a lot of farmworkers in the 19th century but also created millions of new jobs in manufacturing, for example. That may be common knowledge, but comprehensive figures on tasks eliminated and created by technology were not readily available.

So the researchers did some heavy-duty number crunching and found them. “Look at the 40 years after World War II,” says Acemoglu, referring to a period when the labor share was still holding steady. “There was quite a bit of automation [that eliminated tasks] but also quite a bit of introducing new tasks—they were almost identical.” (Think of all the new jobs in services as they became a much larger part of the U.S. economy in the 1950s and 1960s.) “Then the sea change in the last 30 years—automation gets a little faster, but the introduction of new tasks gets very, very slow. That’s the big headline finding.”

It’s also the mystery. The significant implication of this research: For the first time in modern history, automation isn’t necessarily good for workers overall. “Our evidence and conceptual approach” do not support “the presumption that technological change will always and everywhere be favorable to labor,” Acemoglu and Restrepo write. “If the origin of productivity growth in the future continues to be automation, the relative standing of labor will decline.”

這里又要問,為什么?對觀察周遭世界的非經濟學家而言,很難不得出技術的影響力日益增大的宏觀解釋——包括摩爾定律、高級算法、通用連接,一切的成本都達到了歷史新低。也許技術已經跨越了一些與人類能力相關的門檻。如果真是如此,資本就不會像以前一樣用技術增強勞動力,而是有動機完全取代它。非自動化的崗位數量,無論是現存的還是目前還無法想象的,都會有所減少。牛津大學(Oxford University)的丹尼爾·薩斯坎德基于這樣的新資本形態建立了一個完全取代勞動力的經濟模型,稱其為“先進資本”。這一模型最后推斷出了一個“工資削減為零”的場景。

實際上,其他研究人員并沒有對此做好準備。不過,技術讓勞動者的生活變得更好,也讓他們的必要性有所降低——這種觀點正在日益變得主流,也體現了自動化對勞動力的影響已經有了翻天覆地的變化。企業和政府領導人、投資者和勞動者都需要轉變觀念。選民可能需要公共政策來限制技術對勞動者的影響,因為我們無法指望技術來提高勞動者整體的福祉。

在2013年的一次演說中,前美國財政部部長勞倫斯·薩默斯表示:“這一系列發展會定義我們這個時代的經濟特征?!笨雌饋?,這句話每天都在更加接近現實。如今已經處于大型社會重組的早期階段。準備好迎接動蕩吧。(財富中文網)

本文另一版本登載于《財富》雜志2019年7月刊,標題為《自動化的財富轉移》。

譯者:嚴匡正

Again, why? For noneconomists observing the world around us, it’s hard not to conclude that the big-picture explanation involves technology’s increasing power—a combination of Moore’s law, advanced algorithms, and universal connectivity, all at ever-falling cost. Maybe tech has crossed some threshold relative to human capabilities. If so, capital wouldn’t augment labor with technology, as it has always done, but sometimes would have an incentive to fully substitute for it. The number of non-automatable jobs, existing or still unimagined, would dwindle. Daniel Susskind of Oxford University has proposed an economic model based on a new type of capital along these lines, “advanced capital,” that is purely labor-displacing. His model leads to a scenario in which “wages decline to zero.”

Virtually no other researcher is ready to go there. But the increasingly mainstream view—that technology can still make workers better off but doesn’t necessarily—reflects a world-changing shift in the way automation affects labor. It requires new assumptions by business and government leaders, investors, and workers. It suggests that voters may demand public policy that controls technology’s effect on workers, since tech can’t be counted on to boost workers’ well-being overall.

In a 2013 lecture, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said, “This set of developments is going to be the defining economic feature of our era.” That’s looking truer every day. A major societal realignment is in its early stages. Brace for the tumult.

A version of this article appears in the July 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “The Shifting Fortunes of Automation.”

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