A Scan of Critical World Developments
Fading Factories: Curse or Blessing?
The Industrial Revolution fueled the modernization of affluent societies, but industrial-driven development may soon become a relic of history. Robotics and advanced technology have spurred such huge gains in productivity that manufacturing employment may be peaking worldwide—before developing countries have had the time to fully benefit. Rich countries reached their peak manufacturing employment in the mid-twentieth century when they were already well off, easing the transition to a service-based economy. Not so for industrializing countries now facing such a peak at far lower levels of development, and the corresponding danger of high unemployment and instability. Of course, high productivity, a curse for the poor in conventional development paradigms, would be a blessing for societies where wealth, work, and economic security are shared. To prosper in the twenty-first century, then, developing countries will need to transcend the conventional development path and pioneer equitable and sustainable paths to modernity.