No one can deny that automation is gradually playing a huge role in our daily lives. Just think about today’s customer service, artificial intelligence education, and your IoT-equipped office, among others. This has served as warnings about our future and how robots could disrupt our world in different ways—from the social point of view to the economic one. So, what about the future of employment?
A recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research revealed that 670,000 jobs were lost to robots between 1990 and 2007, which is very alarming, but it doesn’t stop there. According to a study made by the Brookings Institution, 25% of American jobs are at risk of being automated over the next 20 years. Some roles are at risk involve in predictable and repetitive work such as transportation, administrative support, and logistics.
Although it may sound like a nightmare, automation makes perfect sense for business owners. Robots don’t have human needs, therefore, the only costs involved would be manufacturing and maintenance. This will definitely improve the company’s productivity. Even though the initial cost to acquire the robots might be very high, the revenue will be significantly higher.
All this might sound overwhelming but don’t worry, we assure you that there are two sides to this situation. First, let’s look at the bright side of things.
Even though it is a fact that robots will automate most tasks in the future, there will be professions that are still going to need the “human element”. Just think about this: who will program these robots?
Jobs that involve creative and tactful tasks will remain crucial for the development of our society, and that’s something robots are still not able to achieve. Since they are unable to demonstrate emotions such as empathy or compassion, endearing professions such as teachers and nurses will not be obsolete.
When robots move into the marketplace, our jobs will be different. We won’t have to handle repetitive tasks, but we’ll have to work with creative and rational jobs. Most economists say that industries such as IT and advanced manufacturing (which is more related to digital products) will add an incredible amount of workers over the next decades, thanks to the arrival of robots.
On the other hand, specialists say that even if robots don’t take all of our logistics jobs, there will be an increase in robotic tools to do those tasks. This will require companies to invest in training programs for their employees. In this scenario, the economy will still work for all of us—we’ll just need to learn new skills to work in different fields.
This could sound like a science-fiction movie, but it’s still a possibility we should visualize. In this scenario, the room for employment is small. Robots will get so sophisticated that there will be an incredible level of unemployment and not everybody will have the necessary skills to work in the available fields. This will consequently generate a huge economic imbalance where only those who ever learned tech skills will survive (alongside business owners).
However, this scenario proposed by many still has some flaws and it’s exactly for the reason that it’s unlikely going to happen. Companies need people who can keep them economically viable and this only happens if people have the possibility to buy their products or services. So society will likely find ways to contribute to the workforce in order to survive.
What Can We Do to Avoid This?
The best way to keep human society active in the future of work is to study tech trends and learn new skills that will be necessary for the future. Considering that most logistic, repetitive and replicable jobs will be obsolete, you should focus more on those jobs that directly work with technology, but require an analytical approach—something that only a human can do. This Bill Gates quote might be accurate for this situation: “Displaced workers could fill gaps that currently exist elsewhere in the labor market—like elder care, teaching and support for special needs children.”
Whether we like it or not, robots will play a huge role in the future of work—be it because they replace many occupations or because you’ll need them as a tool to make your work more efficient. In order to keep the economy alive and the population’s quality of life, we’ll need to evolve, learn new skills, and create a future where our empathy and analytic skills are required. If you would like to start learning a new tech skill, there are many schools that offer programs for professions that will shape the future for all of us.