Biden: In Face of Perils of Fourth Industrial Revolution, Give Middle Class “Possibilities”

Published
20 Jan 2016
2016
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Fon Mathuros, Head of Media, Public Engagement, Tel.: +41 (0)79 201 0211; Email: fmathuro@weforum.org

· With rapid technological advances hollowing out the middle class, it is crucial to ensure that the changes benefit society, US Vice-President Biden said at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2016

· Swiss President Schneider-Amman: Open markets and strong institutions are vital for economies to grow

· For more information about the Annual Meeting 2016, please visit www.weforum.org

Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 20 January 2016 – To counter the hollowing out of the middle class, renew people’s belief in the future, US Vice-President Joe Biden told participants in a keynote address at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2016. “The middle class is about possibilities – the possibilities for anyone willing to work hard to achieve a decent life,” he said. A thriving and growing middle class has been the main reason for social stability in the world’s democracies, Biden stressed. “When the middle class does well, the wealthy do very well and the poor have a ladder up.” He warned: “The [Fourth Industrial] Revolution has the potential to further hollow out the middle class. It is our responsibility to bend these changes to the benefit of society – to make sure that the digital revolution creates more winners than losers.”

Biden blamed short-term thinking by employers for worsening conditions for workers. He outlined five ways to bolster the middle class – invest in education and training, strengthen core social protection and obligations to employees, modernize infrastructure, ensure that tax regimes are more progressive and that everybody pays their fair share, and make capital more widely available. “We have to go back to more of the basics,” Biden said. “Rebuilding pathways to the middle class is an economic imperative.” If the middle class loses its belief in the possibility of a better life, “then we have lost something really special – the soul of our humanity that no machine can replace,” Biden observed.

Earlier, in an address to participants, Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, President of the Swiss Confederation and Federal Councillor of Economic Affairs, Education and Research of Switzerland, said that strong states and institutions are critical for markets to flourish and for economies to grow. “Open markets are the only way to raise per capita income,” he argued. “Globalization has been much more of a blessing than a curse.” People must have the capacity and tools to cope with the rapid changes brought on by technology, said Schneider-Ammann. Concluded Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, in his remarks: “We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them through technology.”

Over 2,500 leaders from business, government, international organizations, civil society, academia, media and the arts are participating in the 46th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, from 20-23 January. Under the theme, “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, the programme comprises over 300 sessions, of which over 100 sessions will be webcast live.

Notes to Editors

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