Bill Gates: Technology Kills Jobs and So Will Higher Minimum Wage


Bill Gates put some perspective on employment, minimum wage, and education in America at a speech given in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. He spoke on the issue of bots — or, for the more tech savvy, “software substitution” — and how they will be transforming the job market in years to come. “Software substitution, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses … it’s progressing. … Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set. … Twenty years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don’t think people have that in their mental model,” said Gates, according to Business Insider.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said unemployment came in at 6.7 percent for the month of February, a slight increase over January’s 6.6 percent but a considerable decrease from most of 2013, which saw levels reach as high as 7.9 in January that year. Job distribution in various industries for 2012 is also available from the BLS. The organization expects to see an increase in the distribution in service-providing industries, from 79 percent in 2012 to 80.9 percent in 2022. This includes industries such as manufacturing, service providing, mining, construction, and the like — industries that could be all be included in Gate’s prediction.

Employment issues are seeing action in Washington as of late, following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, in which he emphasized intentions to up the minimum wage with or without Congress — and as of Thursday, to grant overtime to workers that would otherwise be ineligible. The president and many Democrats with eyes on midterm elections are concerned that workers who should be making more money based on their work are not getting the pay they deserve, and that struggling families and average Americans can help the economy given a financial boost.

Others have claimed that an overtime addition for millions will simply lead to worker reduction and pay cuts, and that a minimum wage increase will lead to smaller workforces. Gates is of the latter opinion, according to Business Insider’s report on his talk. He is concerned that with an increase in minimum wage, incentives to keep workers will be lost, while technology itself works simultaneously to discourage workers.

“When people say we should raise the minimum wage, I worry about what that does to job creation … potentially damping demand in the part of the labor spectrum that I’m most worried about,” he said. Though not mentioned by Gates, his point also emphasizes the need for education and aid for those seeking an education that will result in a job, with the likelihood that jobs requiring less specialization and schooling will become more difficult to obtain and less available in a changing job market.

The new regulations released by the Obama administration could be an example of this. They will bar for-profit colleges from federal aid programs if they do not prove that they are preparing students to succeed in the job market.

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet:

Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS