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Following are excerpts from a CNBC interview with Jonas Prising, Group Chairman and CEO, ManpowerGroup, and CNBC's Nancy Hungerford.
NH: The employment picture you are looking at, at this great time of change, automation, how do you think the private sector is dealing with these challenges?
JP: We just did a survey across the world asking employers how automation and technologies are impacting their outlook on their workforce and 87% of them say that they intend to maintain or grow their workforce thanks to technology and automation. So, while we have a lot of discussion around jobs being eliminated, the untold story is very much that employers that are automating at a faster pace are also creating jobs.
NH: So, don't fear the robots?
JP: So, don't fear the robots, humans are wanted and they will be the robots' best friend.
NH: Robots best friend. The tricky part is though reskilling the labor force that is already out there. This really does rely on collaborations between governments and the private sector. What more needs to be done in this effort?
JP: Well the govt sector clearly has a role to play in facilitating the reskilling and upskilling although we find very interesting that over the course of the last 7 years when we have measured how employers are thinking about this, we've seen that the percentage of employers have gone up from 21% to just 6 years ago when asked are you investing in training for your employees to 84% of your employers now saying we think reskilling and upskilling is truly one of the key issues for us and we are investing much, much more into that area.
NH: What are you seeing the impact on wages? because something we talk about frequently on CNBC the low wage problem, low wage inflation that central bankers around the world are kind of scratching their heads over do you think a lot of this is down to the trends in automation and perhaps the wage story won't come back to where we once saw it?
JP: We think that wage increases of course are tied to increases in productivity and productivity in many places hasn't been that great but in the end we also believe that another impact of technology and globalization is full and complete transparency or your competitive position as it relates to wages so we think that aside from all the known factors that affect wage increases shortage of skills and availability, need for certain skills sets, you also have this impact that there is full transparency which we believe acts as a dampener because all companies know to what level they can increase prices for goods and services and still be competitive.
NH: Speaking of being competitive a lot of concern here I would say globally among CEOs, a little more concern that what we saw last year at Davos. More pessimism seems to be out there in the air to the extent that you can judge business confidence by hiring trends. Do you see pessimism?
JP: Well right now we are actually still seeing a very robust labor market environment as you have seen here in Europe; labor markets are healthy. In our own surveys we find that the employers have quite a bullish attitude and outlook in the near term and first of all, labor markets are a lagging indicator and not a leading indicator and things can change very quickly and as you have seen the main concerns here in Davos relate to access to skills, geopolitical concerns and trade concerns. Geopolitical and trade concerns...
NH: In China are you seeing the same picture of employment?
JP: Well the Chinese employment in some sectors is of course being impacted by the slowdown but at the same time they still have a robust consumer economy so there's still employment being generated in China.
NH: Jonas it's been a great pleasure joining us this morning.