· 04 May 2018

The care of the elderly in Spain: people more than robots

Por cenie
El cuidado de los mayores en España: personas más que robots - Sociedad, Innovación

The Fourth Industrial Revolution coincides with a demographic moment of aging of the population that leads to an urgent need to face the care of the elderly. Let's start by recognizing that the work related to the care of people in their homes and even the component that in this care can have domestic service do not have a great recognition in the social scale and to a large extent many times they enter the field of a submerged economy.

The demand for employment in the personal care sector arises without being a direct consequence of the digitalization and globalization that frame the discussion about future employment. One question is whether to face this new need with robotic advances or to consider these tasks as a lifeline, or possibility, for those who lose their jobs in the transition of this revolution without being able to recycle their knowledge to the new possibilities of tasks technologies that are emerging. In this second line, France has opted for the economy of "service to the person", having generated more than 330,000 jobs since 2005 after launching an incentive measure: 50% of the expenses incurred in this type of activity are directly reduced from IRPF. The companies of service to the person have multiplied there.

The robotic solution, on the other hand, has been the choice of the Japanese Government, forced by its demographic circumstances and its rejection of immigration. In 2025, the Asian country will have 30% of people over 65 among the total population. Within the 5.0 society initiative, the Government has decided to promote a policy that increases the acceptance by the community of new aid robots so that every four of five elderly people are already using them by 2020. In early 2017, They defined, for example, some priorities: Caring for bedridden patients; travel with special attention to the bathrooms; help for the precise movements to enter and exit showers and bathtubs; adjustable toilets with mechanisms for certain movements; support systems for home nursing, etc. The decision is very important because Japan, despite its long-standing leadership in robotics, has never resorted to this technology within its borders if its use could increase unemployment rates. Despite being a capitalist economy, its culture makes it just unacceptable to send a person to unemployment because of automation.

Japan and Spain lead the average life statistics of their inhabitants, but their labor decisions do not have to coincide, especially when our country has a better level of home ownership among the elderly, advantages in climate, good medical care, security, Mediterranean personality and tourist infrastructure. Spain currently has 20.2% of inhabitants older than 65 years (compared to 8.2% in 1960 and a forecast for 2031 of 26.2%) of which have an important dependence between 10 and 15%, a those that must be added those older than 65 foreign, especially European retirees. With this could be placed at the head of this increasingly necessary care of the elderly, where the robot will not replace the human, although both work collaboratively.

In Spain, as in France, it is a question of helping, and also of exposing the submerged economy of this type of employment and overcoming the gender bias. In this country this type of tasks is carried out mainly by women: 83% of the total (43% are daughters, 22% wives and 7.5% daughters-in-law of the person cared for) so in most cases there is no paid occupation of the caregiver whose average is 52 years (20% are over 65) and a very substantial part shares the address with the person cared for.

Although in the first place the technological advances in this field arouse sympathy, it is evident that it will not be possible to reach the capacity of robotic technology in personal care that Japan is accumulating. Maybe Spain does not need it, although, as we say, it can be a great help for those who work in this sector, as the Spanish robot Tiago has begun to do in two projects for the elderly.

It is very risky to leave the care of the elderly to people who do not have a certain professional training in this regard. For this we must think of some knowledge that can give a guarantee to society, without going into an escalation of titulitis that, in addition to being ridiculous, will be inefficient, since much of this learning can be accumulated in practice. And before the robotics designed to care for the elderly demonstrates its efficiency -which will never be full-, it is desirable and necessary that these tasks be translated into jobs, their salaries are satisfactory, and so that they have the social consideration and the rights of the other jobs outside of any opaque economy.

Requiring a minimum of training and a tax incentive can radically change the market situation, as has happened in France. In any case, due to the aging of the population, the number of professional caregivers needed (and the innovative structures complementary to nursing homes) will increase despite the development of robots that are not well received by a part of the population. greater. It is also a type of local employment that can not be relocated to emerging economies, although it can benefit from immigration.

To speak of replacing the promising robot with the person is to assume that human development means that the social valuation of employment inevitably changes. It is necessary to ensure that the jobs in which we will have massive demand without satisfying are as attractive as those that are displaced by the productivity of digitalization (which in turn creates new jobs, but for other people). Robots can replace people, but in the Spanish case, in some aspects, like this one, people can avoid being replaced by robots. This is a stark contrast to many of the fears that technology will take jobs away, and that there simply will be no need for the work of many people in our society. The challenge will really be about different jobs or tasks, rather than about the lack of work. The care of the elderly is a dimension -evidently not the only one- for this transition of the model of society imposed by the combination of demography and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Source: El País

Under the framework of: Programa Operativo Cooperación Transfronteriza España-Portugal
Sponsors: Fundación General de la Universidad de Salamanca Fundación del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Direção Geral da Saúde - Portugal Universidad del Algarve - Portugal