Alfonso Sousa-Poza，德国霍恩海姆大学健康护理与公共管理学院经济学教授，执行院长。Alfonso Sousa-Poza教授本科毕业于南非开普敦大学计算机科学专业，之后在瑞士圣加仑大学先后获得经济学硕士和博士学位。Alfonso Sousa-Poza教授是瑞士圣加仑大学经济学永久客座教授,同时也是德国波恩市劳动经济研究所 (IZA) 研究员,并担任The World Bank、European Commission、OECD、Swiss Federal Statistical Office及 Swiss National Science Foundation等机构的咨询委员会专家。Alfonso Sousa-Poza教授研究领域主要涉及人口老龄化，健康经济学，劳动经济学以及主观幸福感。Alfonso Sousa-Poza教授担任The Journal of the Economics of Ageing (Elsevier)主编之一。Alfonso Sousa-Poza教授的研究成果已经发表于诸多相关研究领域的重要期刊，比如Journal of Health Economics、Health Economics、Journal of Population Economics、Labor Economics、Economics & Human Biology, Cambridge Journal of Economics、 European Journal of Industrial Relations、PLoS ONE, Journal of Happiness Studies、European Journal of Population、 Journal of Population Ageing、Journal of Regional Science等。Alfonso Sousa-Poza教授英文学术论著累计他引超过4200次 (据Google Scholar),被瑞士历史上最悠久的报纸《新苏黎世报》(NNZ) 评为瑞士前十位最有影响力的经济学家之一。
1. From you part, which industries will be most affected by artificial intelligence in the next three decades?
Well, that's a very interesting question and in fact an extremely difficult question to answer, I’d say, yeah, there are a lot of people who argue that automation, artificial intelligence.
Well, first of all, I think that's quite logic that it will affect those industries of those professions, which are more repetitive and which you can automate. I think it seems quite obvious, and I mean, kinds of occupations from a truck driver to what they also say many white-collar professions, and whether it is in accountancy or related fields, and I think even white-collar workers will be affected.
So I think in any other day it will affect broader and broader range of professions, and I think the key will always be, affect those which can easily be automated, so that means that there are a lot of professions in the service sector,especially care jobs would be affected.
But you know I mean I heard once was saying even academic professors may soon be axed by robots as well you know that we are to a certain extent in the service industry, teaching young people. I think a lot of what we do may be able to watch the major quite an extent, and maybe it's a little bit science fiction but who knows sooner or later robots, maybe doing our teaching and even our research for us, and so on.But I think for first and foremost and especially if you're looking at the next one or two or even three decades, It'll be primarily those white and blue collar workers who do jobs which are relatively repetitive can be automated.
2. So what do you think what are the outlets of these replaced employers, what will happen to them?
I think the key, there are two things. First of all, I think as a father of four children, four sons who now are all starting to study and do things, I always tell them we'll do study something which has a future, so you know if one really wanted to become a truck driver, I must tell them that is a fantastic profession. I think a lot of young may love being truck drivers and you can get to see the world and, I’m sure they're very exciting. You know anything is, you gonna tell us people, tell myself maybe in twenty years your job will not be needed anymore.
So I think two things first of all the choice of current, profession matters. So what do your children exactly study, you can perhaps steer them into a direction where you believe, and when you believe there may be a future. But nowadays things change quite rapidly and if you have a son of mine who is now eighteen years old, and starting to study you know he's most probably going to retire at seventy his generation I guess. So who knows what the world is going to look like in fifty years. No one knows I guess. When you make recommendations you're basing them basically under here now and the information you have on the first movie will choose a job which at least you believe in the next twenty years is not going to be automated and run by myself machine.
And I think there are a lot of different professions once again no one knows really. I mean I heard recently also that in the medical profession you'll see a lot of automation taking place. So you know it could well be that fifty years, you don't need a surgeon anymore. You’ll have some robots are taking care of all the complicated operations.
Things change, so when is base your decisions now on, would you believe will be your job careers, professions which are still needed in future.And I think perhaps even more important, the future is that our life model which we have now.That you born, you go to primary school, a secondary school, in your high school you go to university, you study for a number of years, during apprenticeship also the same, study, and then at the age of twenty five, you start working, and then we're going to have to work till sixty five, seventy. I assume you’ll work for seventy, uh and then you also have another life expectancy another twenty years ago. This is our life, and I think we have to rethink whether or not it makes sense, the real model, to study until you’re twenty five, knowing that you have to work with seventy, and have life expectancy ninety.
I think the whole issue of continual learning will get importance, it means that after your first degree, you should actually even start planning ahead that may be in ten or twenty years, you may just have to redefine yourself, do another job, learn another profession now at the point in time, most people will still say that Utopia is unrealistic, who's gonna start studying for a new career at the age of fifty five.
Let me think of it, you know most Europeans are painting the retirement at sixty five, but I think in future we have to think things differently, especially if this pace of automation increases, I think it could well happen that you may have to be more dynamic, with your future.
3. So my third question is: In your opinion, what are the potential impacts of artificial intelligence on job satisfaction?
That's a good question I mean, I guess if you don't work and you're satisfied. but there's equal to asking about your job satisfaction. You know if you got automated, to the extent that you're out of a job that takes care of the job satisfaction. But I want to answer to your question differently. A lot of your tasks may end up being automated, so many things with you before did now gets done automatically.
And I think you know that has two sides again.The one side I thinkyou know what a machine can be, an excellent aid too much that we do as an academic, being able to do research withmachines that are learning is a fantastic experience, which I think enriches our profession.I think there have a lot of architects, which willbe extremely pleased. They said the automation taking place in the way that houses are now being built by robots. How they canvisualize three dimensions, either they're constructions before a brick has been laid.
So I think a lot of this automationwill enrich a lot of professions, not now that being said, you have maybe a lot of people and I'm thinking primarily those will be completely out of the job which would be totally negatively affected by automation, which will lose their jobs and that's discussed before it's not only the standard truck driver, this can affect very many professions, also high school professions.
And of course, for these people, I could not speak job satisfaction thatprobably of unemployment or at least, losing a profession which they like before, and I recently spoke, my baker inSwitzerland, very nice bakery, which makes excellent bread by hand, but it's handmade and the breads don't always all look the same, sometimes it's a little black on the top because it's all handmade bread. But unfortunately she says she doesn't think that there's a future of this for her children because it all automated large bakeries where machines are making standardized bread all look the same.So maybe there's also a bit of a down side too.
4. From your viewpoint, what the largest distinction of job satisfaction between Chinese employees and those in the Europe?
You know this is what I just spoke about in my speech before,I thinkwe have certain problems in comparing job satisfaction,I mean if we just take a standard question in a job satisfaction survey, then as I showed my presentation before, although it's not one to one comparable, we get the impression that the average Chinese worker has a lower job satisfaction level than the average European worker, now that being said and I wouldn't interpret too much into this average.I mean don't interpret too much into these averages you know usually if you have a policy maker and he says job satisfaction is low in our country what we do about this, and then you'll hear the union saying when they need higher wages or more flexible work time, more time with the family, you know so as soon as you present statistics like this, the first thing that will happen is people will start to change aspects of the job to hope to increase job satisfaction.
Now I'm not saying that all job satisfaction measures, um, may notimply suchproactive policy making, I’m just a little bit more weary because I think especially in the Chinese case, and especially when comparing it to the European case, people when asked these jobs satisfaction questions, respond in a way which they believe, is acceptable to society, an acceptable to the person asking the question. This is the example made my presentation whereas maybe if you ask an American womanhow happy she and her job, she shall say “hey I'm absolutely fine! It's really great” and give me ten points.A Chinese average worker,when it may be asked how happy you and your job, maybeit's the right thing to do, the right answer to give, is to not go to the extremes but to replace your answer in the middle and say;“I’m fine”, that may be the giant Chinese, your Chinese are correct, if I’m wrong, okay.
This is my impression I get from looking at the statistics.I get the feeling that you have so many Chinese reporting in the middle and be saying,“I'm okay”, So maybe this attitude in China that may be showing too much positive emotion is perhaps, just as bad as showing too much negative emotion, so when I say the job satisfaction, average of every job satisfaction China seems lower than in Europe, don't interpret too much into that , it could simply be the weaken answer this questions.
5. You have done a lot of research on subjective well-being, then what is your most important aspect of happiness? How do you boost your job satisfaction?
Well, you're a young lady and you've got your life. You are so obviously knowing what will increase your life satisfaction, this may be important for you and I say you can. Okay I'll give you now two different sides of the literature, so you can choose which one your life places, it’ll give you the one side which will tend you. The bad side is, don't try to anything, you know because you're not going to be able to change it. And there's one theory which simply says, you're born with the level of happiness, and it doesn't really matter what you do, sure there may be ups and downs, you know maybe you get, find a nice husband and get married and you're really happy you get. Or you buy yourself a new car, it makes you really happy, or maybe you get sick, unhappy and so there are changes in your happiness over life.
But this one theory says, besides having these temporal changes, you'll stay at the same level throughout your whole life, I'm simplifying it a little bit. But this is of essence, what they call the so called set point theory which is, you're basically doomed to your level of life satisfaction, which you're born with your genetic endowment your personality. It's a bit of an extreme form of painting this, not so radical but that could be the one thing , it's just you know not much you're going to do about it, so, that could be the one I've heard this obviously a large body of literature which, shows you know what determines, what make up life happiness.
Okay. So you'll know for example that, a good health, seems to correlate strongly with high levels of life satisfaction, a good job, family relationships, seems to correlate strongly with overall life satisfaction. It's always difficult saying what causes is, just a whole personality but if you really want to know what domains matter, I'd give you three, health, family, work. So invest in those three things and maybe you'll be a little bit happier.
The final thing perhaps I just also want to mention to you, which is also in happiness literature is, if you're an average person, you're quite young now, what may must really happen if China is similar to the rest of the world, is as you get older now, you're gonna get more unhappy. All those things being equal, family, income, health. Because I'm just saying, you just live your life, you're gonna earn money and married, but taking all these things into account, your level of happiness will fall. It’s quite depressing, right? Okay It'll for a fall, until you get to my age, I know it's a long way away, but my age, when you get to my age, things will go up again, and you're still getting happier and after a half year, I'm not getting happier and happier, and then eventually you die, so there's this theory in it, It's called the U shape of life satisfaction,
Basically says it was really after controlling for all kinds of things is that, you know if you're young, you can listen this happier until you get to middle age, midlife crisis, around forty or fifty around there, and then you'll get happier again. So there's not much you can do to influence this, because you're gonna get older, you get any weight, until you get to middle age and after that you'll be happier again. Or perhaps you can be a bit creative because the reason whatever you know the reason is for this U shape, but one possible reason is that young people like you, have very high expectations. you know you have studied now and now, you're going out there, you want a good job, you want to marry handsome husband, you want a nice flat in an apartment. And you've got very high expectations and you're going to go out there, and then realize the world is maybe a little bit difficult. Not all expectations are going to be met and they're going to have, and this will make you unhappy. Until you get a bit older you have more realistic expectations, you know exactly what car you can afford and you're happy with that.
So maybe you could try to draw slowly to reduce your expectations and already I don't think it's a good idea. I would think when you're young, you should have high expectations, and try to achieve it. That's my mom answered.
6. You know the issue of aging in China is worsening, there are many older people in big cities, in your part, what are the possible effects on China’s economic development in the future?
Well, I think you should ask my colleague there was probably is more of a China expert than I am, but, in general you know aging populations, do you have an effect in the context, in a number of very many different ways,the first reason I guess is that with aging populations you have, I mean by definition we have shrinking workforce is, this is the reason why you have aging in the same state, the proportion of older people gets larger and larger and relative, you know to the smaller, to the younger population means that your labor force is shrinking, having a shrinking labor force, means that, in a very simple model of, it means that your economy will be smaller you'll grow less rapidly also, is this a bad thing?
Well, we can talk about this also differ, shrinking economy is a good or bad thing, leaving for another day this discussion but, that is one problem you have you know our societies are geared, having growing economies, with aging populations in a shrinking workforce it becomes ever increasingly difficult, to maintain economic growth, simple as that, you can offset that you can say you got a shrinking labor force.
But, there are many other aspects which could enhance growth, for example productivity, total spoke about automation okay well, maybe the work force is shrinking but hey we're going to have a good lot of good robots which can do a lot with other people could have done which are here now, so, you can have productivity games through automation other forms but, you know this could help to maintain a certain, the level of economic growth, it's a little open debate, we don't know that. In the past years productivity growth has been very slow and sluggish, others will argue this is just a temporary phenomenon when automation really kicks in this productivity rise will be much larger it's difficult to tell but we can't say is that productivity growth has been slow in the last one to two decades, so we slept to see to what extent productivity gains can compensate for the reduction in the labor force, yes I think that's definitely one, influence that you have on the economy.
Obviously, I think China knows best of all is the shrinking labor force, we'll pose great challenges on social security, medical care, and this is something which each society can have to cope with but we still have model, which patients often are not funded, which means that the young generation is paying for the pensions of the old generation, China now recently introduced a pension system, universal pension system is still quite modest so, but I think as China becomes more prosperous, and ages more.
I think the pension issue will gain in importance, and there will be the question of how do you want to fund these kind of pension systems and there are a lot of ideas out there from every different pension systems, moving from an unfunded system of the even funded system is liable to demographic change so that's not the total complete solution, migration has been the word spoken in other countries.
I don't know to what extent China is willing and able to accept more migrants, you can increase the retirement age needs to say China will have to do that eventually, life expectancy rises education levels rises, they're gonna have to raise the retirement age, so there are ways to also counteract this so, aging populations will have many, I think it will affect, all kinds of, the aspects of daily life, because besides economic growth, social security systems sort of the standard topics, I could go on talking about all kinds of things also the real estate markets, this is something where China, matters a lot you know housing, how does demographic change how will it affect housing prices, Now there's a large literature about this which, shows that you know as you're, as the age composition of the population changes so do housing prices, behave tourism behavior travel behavior, you know there's virtually no field I think, society which will not be affected, and, demographic change, to the age of relations intimate, I think so, and considering the magnitude, the speed, which you, which Chinais aging, I think this will have a tremendous effectiveness.
7. As for this phenomena, Chinese government has promoted “active aging” and “healthy aging”. Then, what are your suggestions for boosting "active aging" and "healthy aging" in China?
You know when I look around without being a real specialist in China, when I walk through the streets here, I get the feeling the Chinese are very healthy people. I don't know what “active aging” and “healthy aging” they still need, because you know when I see what they eat is healthy foods. The other day, I looked out of office window and saw people doing exercise over lunch, very few people are overweight or obese remarkable, although we know the obesity trend has been increasing in China in the last decade. I guess eventually with economic growth you may have the obesity problem, but at the moment in general I see a society which is physically healthy and very active.
Now that being said, of course, I guess one can always promote more active behavior and all the age, I wouldn't think that in China this should be the main priority. I could imagine that perhaps other aspects which maybe more important from a public health perspective, for instance, (I’m guessing a little bit) smoking behavior. You get the feeling that an international comparison Chinese smoke quite a lot. I think these aspects are perhaps just as important as promoting active aging in making sure that people age healthy.
That could be a more promising avenue to go down, so I think all kinds of what they call the so called risky behaviors from alcohol consumption to smoking.I’m not going to what extent until I have read that. There are also psychological problems in China, I don't know to what extent now. Another problem is a prescription drug problem, but I think knowing risky behaviors could be make sure that people live long and healthy.
Besides, you know what all other countries are doing with to ensure active aging, physical health, since healthy diets and physical activity are growing importance also mental cognitive skills or cognitive agility, and to make sure that all the people will stay active. With regard to these aspects, I get the feeling that the Chinese are doing international comparison quite well.
8. Thank you so much, professor, the last question is beneficial for our students, even though the numbers of Chinese students often go abroad to study and now Chinese overseas students are increasing rapidly and they compete fiercely to obtain a decent offer from foreign universities, so in your opinion how to make a successful applicant for a PhD program of economics in Germany?
Well, I think it's very competitive. There are a lot of Chinese applying for our positions and universities around the world, and I’ve got quite a large group of students, um I think there are Chinese, and most of these scholarships are given based on the competition, and I think the Chinese are very well equipped with our university.
We always have many Chinese applicants that I think will have excellent education here in China, especially the schooling education is fantastic as we've seen. A PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) of study and others in a Chinese, they perform, based were close to base in the world, when it comes to medical skills but also languages you said. I think most Chinese are willing to go abroad and brings a lot of the prerequisites needed in order to give them ownership.
So I often think the problem of getting scholarships. I think it quite a bit differently for Chinese to get into universities and PhD programs in Germany but generalized actually too much of Europe. I say is not all that difficult, obviously there will be some minimum requirements that you have to fulfill from language skills to standardized tests like the GRE or the GMAT or whatever, but I’ve got no doubt that the most Chinese students will do these tests, and they'll do them very well and, and they'll get accepted into these institutions. Perhaps that will be more relevant questions if they're getting acceptance into PhD programs in Europe or even good PhD programs in the United States.
I think the more relevant important question is how I can find this the host universities that have funding opportunities so they've got scholarships or teaching assistantships which can be offered but they're limited in scale. And I know from my experience in one time that many Chinese apply for oversees scholarship in China to go to study, and that is the real hurdle. You know I don't think the real problem is getting acceptance at the university in a European country. I think the real hurdle is getting a scholarship if you apply for one in China because that is extremely competitive, and there you have to work not only be lucky but you really have to have very good results. I think it's much harder than getting accepted by the Western university.
Prof. Alfonso Sousa-Poza, that's all my question for you.Thank you very muchfor your kind reply!