I disagree with the mechanisms and the underlying politics, but I think Rob's perspective is what a lot of people see, and it's part of what is driving up the extreme-right movements across Europe: a mixture of fear of loss of security by the elderly and fear of loss of work by the young.
There is a very telling graph of industrial output vs industrial employment in the US: output has continued to grow linearly except for a small dip after 2008. However employment has dropped off a cliff. It's about automation, and the extreme right is claiming that it's immigration. The money from that continued growth is now going directly to whoever can afford to buy the robots, hence the extreme concentration of wealth, at the highest levels ever in the US, approaching 1910 levels in Europe.
So there are a bunch of young people, the least qualified of whom are no longer employable, who are unsurprisingly behaving badly, which feeds back into the security concerns. The right is exploiting it, the left is pretending it isn't happening, the unions are trying to protect the status quo on which their power depends while hanging the unemployed out to dry. None of them have any idea what to do (nor do I) and are busy lining their own pockets: the cynicism and corruption in French politics are breath-taking, but I doubt it's hugely better elsewhere.
Yes indeed, to me, the danger of the automation process has been painfully obvious all along, and I see it very clearly in what was my own profession, with the division of work reducing to the very top-end or the scraps nobody really wants... Was a time there were dozens of little commercial photographers working away and making a living in my own city of Glasgow. When I left, there were very few, most big studios going the way of the dodo. And we only have our own blindness to blame.
I can't remember the number of times that my lament on this topic (related to photography) has been countered with reference to buggy whip makers. As if the one excused the other, and the second most-used attack has been the old one about nobody owing the pro a living. Of course, no pro ever imagined that anyone did owe him a living - I think most of us always knew the commercial battles that would lie ahead: you hardly go pro without having had some real work experience in the field - how would you know where to start? But hey, what about that imaginary level playing field when you do hang out your shingle?
But yep, the robots and the machines are killing off the very people who would once have been earning the money to be customers for whatever product somebody is hoping to flog. I watched part of the UK Budget reports this evening, and the self-employed have today seen a rise in their national insurance contribution that "brings them in line" with whatever the employed pay, "which is only fair!" Not one politician interviewed mentioned the fact that the self-employed do not get all of the same benefits as the employed: no paid holiday as right, they have to provide for their own non-state pension, if they can afford one (paid for at least in part by the employer in the case of the employed person). The underlying, fake political assumption, again as sop to the LCD, is that all the self-employed are making a bloody fortune and getting away with murder. And that coming from a Conservative government that really should know better, and I'm damned sure does. The reality is that many do what they do simply because they love it, despite hardly making ends meet, and have no alternative but to keep on fighting for what they believe in, and yet others are self-employed because they are, frankly, otherwise unemployable, but it's better than doing nothing.
Yesterday I read in a local newspaper an analysis of the state of employment on this island. The big thing was a graph showing the ratios of the overqualified and the underqualified for the work they were actually doing. It's sad to see so many well qualified people working in lowly paid manual jobs they could never have imagined themselves obliged to do when they were being educated. And it's not even a new European phenomenon: back in the 60s I remember my mother returning from one of her trips to Italy and telling me about the statistics there, where so many university graduates were unemployed. Yes, back then. I read this to be an indication of the huge flaw that currently faces Britain, where there is this political cant suggesting everybody needs to have a higher education. The same people fail to explain where the well qualified will all fit! They also fail to explain (but not fail to blame) how teachers are supposed to bring the dumbest in their classes up to the standard of the brighter. It can't happen because of the reality that all people are anything but mentally equal, are far from being equally committed, and many seldom receive the total help at home that education demands. So what happens? In order to be seen to be doing something
there's a never ending flow of government-inspired changes to the way teaching is done, targets are brought in, thrown out and replaced with more fantasies.
So what about jobs for the less academically able? My son used to tell me about friends he had, working as plumbers and sparks, making a grand a week. Yet, there seems to be a political blindness regarding those jobs - which hardly need university educations - and an absolute focus on bullshit about equal higher education for all, whether that's needed or was even ever possible, everybody willing to finance it. It's basically just another crazy manifestation of political correctness being forced upon the world, like it, need it or not.
It's all a friggin' mess