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Employment in the new digital wave: human robots or human resources?
Joan Torrent-Sellens

Concern for the future of employment is a recurring theme whenever a process of disruptive change in technology takes place. Economic analysis has shown that technology does not destroy work, but it skews skills and abilities, and displaces tasks, jobs, occupations and people. Generally, in the long term, the consequences of these technological waves on work tend to be positive because they are linked to increases in productivity, new economic activity, higher employment and salary improvements for people working in firms or sectors related to technological innovation. In addition, the effects of job substitution can be offset in the long term if firms’ strategies and policies, especially in terms of human resource management, take the form of active employment policies that train and reskill displaced people. This general form of interaction of technology with work has been questioned with the recent digital wave characterized, among other factors, by the explosion of intelligent robotics. According to some authors, the rate of substitution of human labour by robots will be so fast that they can hardly be compensated by the usual route of increases in demand and productivity. Other authors argue just the opposite, and frame the current dynamics within the context of the traditional interactions between technology and work. However, robotics is non-human work, has very particular and dynamic characteristics, offers a wide range of possibilities of use and, at the same time, generates fears too. In this article, we will analyse the employment implications of new robotics, paying special attention to the human resources management.

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