Automation is Taking Over Jobs
Life was already becoming more automated, but the labor shortage and higher labor costs due to the pandemic led to a big push for automation. The deployment of robots as a response to the coronavirus pandemic was rapid. They were suddenly cleaning floors at airports and taking people’s temperatures. Hospitals and universities deployed Sally, a salad-making robot created by tech company Chowbotics, to replace dining-hall employees. At the same time, malls and stadiums bought Knightscope security-guard robots to patrol empty real estate.
As robots and other computer-assisted technologies take over tasks previously performed by labor, there’s increasing concern about the future of jobs and wages. There are currently 10.7 million unemployed people in the US, according to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report. With the end of the pandemic barely in sight, the unemployed are concerned they may never get their jobs back. Now, they also have the burden of worrying about potentially being replaced with AI-enabled machines and automation.
Is Automation Putting Jobs at Risk?
Automation is everywhere, and its penetration and sophistication are increasing. Artificial intelligence is expected to greatly expand the ability of robots and automated systems to learn, combine work functions and think outside the box. Automation continues to supplant a growing number of routine business functions that previously were handled by humans—including service sector jobs that economists once considered safe, assuming that machines couldn’t easily provide the human contact they believed customers would demand.
According to a report from the World Economic Forum, 85 million jobs will be replaced by machines with AI by the year 2025. Jobs that have predictable or repetitive essential tasks, such as assembly line workers, dishwashers, food preparation workers, drivers, and agricultural and other equipment operators, are likely to become automated. For example, visit an Amazon warehouse, and you will find robots scurrying about the floors with goods bound for delivery, working alongside employees and other robotized machines that lift and stack bins.
In 2020, economists Daron Acemoglu of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University found that each new industrial robot deployed in the United States between 1990 and 2007 replaced 3.3 workers, even after accounting for the positive economic effects of more productive firms.
In the US, the impact of automation could be cushioned for many. With a tight labor market and an aging workforce projected through 2030, the resulting high demand for workers will likely cushion the impact of job losses due to automation, whose effects tend to show up gradually over the years.
Automation Will Create More Jobs
While that may sound like a terrifying statistic, don’t worry. The same World Economic Forum report states that 97 million new jobs will be created by 2025 due to AI. So yes, while automation will replace some jobs, others are either here to stay or will be created thanks to artificial intelligence. Automation tends to advance not by eliminating jobs but by eliminating particular functions at which humans are inefficient or inconsistent, or exposed to risk. Ideally, automation should free humans from dangerous or boring tasks so they can take on more intellectually stimulating assignments, making companies more productive and raising worker wages.
Over the past 150 years, the US has gone from a nation of farmers to factory workers to a nation of white-collar and service employees, with much of that momentous change driven by automation. While regional economies have been disrupted and recessions have created periodic unemployment crises, there has never been a chronic, structural shortage of jobs nationwide. New inventions create new markets and jobs to go with them.
Automation will displace millions of workers in the coming years but simultaneously create many new jobs that displaced workers will need to be trained to fill. Employers will need to expand workforce retraining to manage the enormous disruptions that the automation revolution will bring. If you’d like more technology tips or updates like these, be sure to contact us today.