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Robots Won’t Steal All the Jobs (But They Will Take Some)


Since the early days of science fiction, man has worried that robots would eventually take their jobs. So far, the news seems to be mixed — sometimes robots giveth jobs and sometimes they taketh them away. But certain low-paying occupations are more at risk for robotic replacement than others.


(Photo Credit: seanmcmenemy/Flickr)

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1. Farm Workers

InformationWeek recently ran a roundup of jobs that will most likely be replaced by automation — someday — including farm workers. The robots that replace them look like Wall-E, and it’s hard to believe they’re cheaper than human agricultural workers, who earn as little as earn as little as $2,500 a year.

2. Store Clerks

NBC News points out that this is happening already: when was the last time you saw a pharmacy or a grocery store without a self-checkout section, or a bank without an ATM? Clerks earn median salaries of $30,820 in the U.S. — not as much as Kevin Smith made making a movie about them, but enough so that you’d miss it if it were your salary, and you didn’t have it anymore.

3. Waitstaff

Salon tells a tale of a dystopian present, where iPads have replaced waiters at one restaurant in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. It’s probably going to be some time before patrons of high-end restaurants will accept having their wine decanted and their table linens arranged by a robot, but automation like this could threaten workers at fast-food chains.

Note that many of these jobs are low-paying. If you’re not currently toiling away for low wages, your thought might be, “Oh, well, good. People shouldn’t have to work for such little money.” And while that’s true, what’s also true is that many of the jobs added since the recession ended are low-paying jobs. The PayScale Index predicts 0.8 percent increase in wages in Q4 2013, despite the recent decline in unemployment — in part because while people are working again, they’re often working for less.

Which makes any robot encroachment on jobs scarier than it would ordinarily be. Assuming, of course, that “ordinary” means pre-2008.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you worried about robots taking your job? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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