South Korea, Germany and Singapore lead the world in preparations for a smooth adoption of AI-based automation into their economies, with the United States lagging far behind in ninth, and China even farther back, according to a new report.
The report, by Swiss tech company ABB and The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked 25 advanced economies in how prepared they are for automation to play a bigger role in the economy. The countries deemed to be best prepared have adopted education and labor policies aimed at easing that transition, the organizations said.
The United States did do well in measures of start-up support and knowledge transfer, but was below several countries on its education policy.
The authors of the report said education, particularly vocational education, is lacking when it comes to the challenges of intelligent automation, in most countries, not just the United States. But Germany’s system of technical and vocational training, it noted, has long been seen as a model.
“Its system, along with those of South Korea and Singapore, help these three countries share leadership of the labour market policy category of the index,” the study’s authors said. “Experts interviewed for the study, however, warn that vocational training in most countries remains too focused on low-skilled occupations to be of use in preparing young people for the automated workplace.”
South Korea and Germany hold two of the top three spots in terms of gross spending on research and development as a percentage of GDP. And the countries best prepared for a smooth transition to an automated economy do correlate, at least somewhat, with spending. After South Korea, Japan spends the most on R and D, and increased its spending on artificial intelligence research by nine fold last year, and it comes in fourth in the overall index. But the United States is fourth in spending on R&D as a percentage of GDP, so the correlation isn’t complete.
After South Korea, Germany, Singapore and Japan, the top 10 is rounded out by Canada (5), Estonia (6), France (7), the UK (8), the U.S. (9) and Australia (10.) China comes in at No. 12, Russia at No. 16 and India at No. 18.
Tiny Estonia is an interesting case, coming in at sixth despite being a small country with a population that has far less money at its disposal for supporting research. The country is high on the list because it ranks second in how well its education system has adapted to the coming change.