The Potential Robotization and the Economy of Ignorance in Russia’s Regions

Numerous researchers declare that a new industrial revolution has begun. Development of modern technologies and introduction of robots may cause sporadic growth in technological unemployment.

According to our estimates, the share of potentially automated jobs in Russia amounts to about 44%; this index is lower than in a majority of developed countries. Robotization processes will have a certain geographic differentiation. The higher values of the index are observed in regions with the developed manufacturing industry: the Leningrad Region, the Vladimir Region, the Kaluga Region, the Lipetsk Region and the Novgorod Region, while the lower ones, in less developed regions where the share of informal unemployment is high.

The automation as such does not lead to growth in the long-term unemployment, but makes its necessary for workers to renew on a permanent basis their competence, skills and readiness to changes and promote creativeness. There is a risk that a portion of the population will not be able to adapt to new conditions and may be excluded for a long period of time fr om economic activities. What is meant here is a formation of a sector of the economy where people are not involved in modern processes related to creation, application, development and generation of new ideas, technologies and products. It is proposed to call the described above sector “the economy of ignorance” (or “the society of ignorance”) in contrast to the most progressive part of the economy, that is, the economy of knowledge.

Prone to the economy of ignorance are old-age people, people with a lower education level and those who engage in low-paid physical labor. Also, in Russian regions a large part of able-bodied population works in the informal sector, including people who engage in subsistence farming.

If the automation took place immediately, about a half of Russia’s working-age population (40.1 million people) could be excluded fr om economic activities. In a number of underdeveloped regions, this estimate is higher than 55%: Ingushetia (63,2%), Chechnya (57.2%), Dagestan (53.2%), Karachayevo-Cherkessia (53.2%), Kabardino-Balkaria (52.4%) and Tyva (52.4%). In the above regions, the share of potentially highly automated trade services, transportations, agriculture is high. The share of the informal sector is high, too. In these regions, a high level of potential exclusion correlates with a low level of potential automation, that is, the complex of present-day social and economic problems is supplemented with a growing mismatch between labor efficiency which eventually has an effect on budget revenues and potential social risks and expenditures. Also, the share of potential technological exclusion is rather high in mineral–mining regions: the Nenets Autonomous Region (58.8%), the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region (52.1%) and the Khany-Mansisk Autonomous Region (52%) wh ere technologies of unattended production and transportation of oil and gas are gradually introduced. In regions with a high share of the manufacturing industry, robot-based complexes are actively developing: the Leningrad Region (51.3%), the Chelyabinsk Region (51%) and Bashkortostan (50.5%). The higher the share of the working population which is potentially prone to the robotization, the higher the risks of technological exclusion (potential economy of ignorance) and social risks in future. Administrations of regions wh ere this share is high should pay more attention to individuals’ adaptation.

The factors which are able to reduce the share of the economy of ignorance are as follows: a high level of the population’s education and entrepreneurial activities, high incomes and the developed sector of information and communication technologies.

The measures to reduce the above-stated risks include introduction of permanent training systems, formation of the network of higher education establishments specializing in business training, reduction of investment risks, involvement of people in business activities and promotion of the quality of the information and communication infrastructure.

Stepan Zemtsov, Senior Researcher

The comments are based on the article by S. Zemtsov:

S. Zemtsov. Can Robots Replace People? Evaluation of Automation-Related Risks in Russia’s Regions // Innovations. 2018. Issue No.4. pp. 2-8.

S. Zemtsov. Robots and Potential Technological Unemployment in Russia’s Regions: Research Experience and Initial Estimates // Voprosy Ekonomiki. 2017. Issue No.7. pp. 142-157