Will the robots change the job market and the economy forever? Certainly, automation will usher in changes. But there are some indications that the situation isn’t as dire as it seems.
Technology could lead to some significant job loss in the years to come. As many as 47 percent of current U.S. jobs could be automated over the course of the next few decades, by some estimates. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the job market is going down the drain.
There is a long history around the concern about how automation impacts jobs. At the same time, no one can argue with the fact that technology enriches our lives in so many ways. Couldn’t it do the same for labor? At the end of the day, there are many good reasons to hope for the best when it comes to automation’s impact on the job market.
1. Change isn’t necessarily bad
In a changing world, the job market is always expanding and shifting. In 1790, 90 percent of the U.S. labor force worked in agriculture. That’s no longer the case, and yet our job market continues to thrive.
The job market doesn’t suffer just because it changes. In fact, as many as 65 percent of the children entering primary school right now will have jobs that don’t exist today. Automation may change the kinds of jobs that are available, but that doesn’t mean that job opportunities will decline.
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2. Creativity + automation = jobs forever
Change and growth are good for the economy and for the job market. In many ways, automation is the reason that the world is changing so quickly. Ideas come to fruition via technology, which creates new products and services in turn. As long as people keep demanding new things, new jobs will continue to arise to replace the ones lost to automation.
3. The past is an indication
The economy and job market are strong despite previous concerns about automation. These fears seem to rise to the surface from time to time; perhaps it’s the natural consequence of cultural and economic shifts.
However, the Economic Policy Institute has concluded through research that there is no evidence that automation leads to joblessness. In fact, 140 years of data show that technology has created far more jobs that it’s destroyed. Our worst-case scenario fears haven’t panned out yet, and technology have already revolutionized our world, so maybe we can start to relax a little bit. This trend isn’t likely to totally reverse course in the years ahead.
4. They could never really replace us
It’s natural to feel concerned about the future when the job market is changing. If the citizens of the late 18th century knew that these days only 2 percent of Americans work in agriculture, they probably would’ve been worried. But, now we know they need not have been concerned. Humans found other things to do.
Jobs might change, even in ways we couldn’t imagine, but humans can never be replaced. There are a lot of jobs that only humans can do, and that will always be true. It’s tough to imagine robots replacing human workers entirely in caregiving professions or in work that requires creativity and teamwork, for example. Many jobs rely on skills that robots just don’t have.
5. It’s a waste of valuable energy
Per a recent report from the EPI:
Rather than debating possible problems that are more than a decade way, policymakers need to focus on addressing the decades-long crisis of wage stagnation by creating good jobs and supporting wage growth. And as it turns out, policies to expand good jobs and increase wages are the same measures needed to ensure that workers potentially displaced by automation have good jobs to transition to. For these workers, the education and training touted as solutions in the mainstream robot narrative will be inadequate, just as they were not adequate to help displaced manufacturing workers over the last few decades.
In other words, perhaps instead of wasting our energy worrying about the robots, we should channel our efforts into creating policy that supports workers now and in the future.
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