Will the Future Include Job Destruction or Job Creation?

A study by CBRE Workplace stated that “50 percent of occupations will no longer exist in 2025,” and a 2013 Oxford study forecasted that by 2034 that “47 percent of jobs would be automated.” Finally, a McKinsey&Company study showed that current technologies could automate “45 percent of the activities people are paid to perform.”

Some researchers and strategic thinkers feel that automation is the root cause of job destruction today. It is said that automation is taking blue collar manufacturing jobs and white collar content/information jobs as well.

On the flip side are studies that counteract the above. One study that was completed in April 2017 by the National Academy of Sciences was to investigate the impact of information technologies on jobs. The academy panel deduced, “We expect new job opportunities to emerge as increasingly capable combinations of humans and machines attack problems that previously have been intractable.” Additionally, the panel felt that Americans will “see a boost in income, wealth, shortened work time, and new goods and services.”

The second study penned from the Washington-based think tank, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, studied the “dislocation and creation” of jobs from 1850 to 2010 and came to a “very counterintuitive conclusion about the impact of technology.” It studied the “level of occupational churn” – meaning the rate at which some “occupations expand while others contract” – and found that it is at an historic low. The think tank found the rate was 38 percent of that from 1950 to 2000 and 42 percent of the levels from 1850 to 2000. The conclusion – the United States is not being innovative enough.

This seems to be confirmed by an article from The Wall Street Journal that said that business startups had been floundering and steadily declining since the 1980s. With all of the new company names like Taskrabbit, Grubhub, Airbnb, Audible, Uber, Upwork, and Lyft how can this be? Could it be that baby boomers are moving into retirement and millennials are not hitting their stride on founding companies? Some think the cause has been the new regulations that have been passed since 2008 making it difficult to raise funds. Finally, some believe the U.S. is just not founding as many companies as in the past mainly due a concern about the risk involved in doing so.

Whatever the reason given (and believed), it leads to a conclusion that public servants and leaders should not play to the fear of automation, but instead encourage the development of it. These public leaders have helped workers retrain themselves to adjust to a changing economy. Americans will not support investments in education and research if they are continually told the worst about technology and automation. In conclusion, a Pew poll taken last year said that two-thirds of people felt their own jobs were secure even though they think robots and software automation are taking over a lot of work completed by humans. Despite the oncoming existence of automation, they see the upside and, in effect, ignore the fear.

Change is inevitable and it is accelerating. Whether you believe the future looks half empty or half full, being prepared in your mind and conditioned to its effect will help ease the transition.

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