An Oxford study found that 47 percent of U.S. jobs are in danger of being automated out of existence over the next decade or two. But not all jobs are equally at risk.
The 2013 working paper, The Future of Employment, looked at the probability that 702 occupations would be automated over the next 20 or so years. The authors, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, wrote:
“The impact of computerisation on labour market outcomes is well established in the literature, documenting the decline of employment in routine intensive occupations – i.e. occupations mainly consisting of tasks following well-deﬁned procedures that can easily be performed by sophisticated algorithms.”
In other words, if a machine can easily and cheaply do a job, humans won’t be able to compete. Jobs that involve repetitive tasks that must be performed according to strict guidelines — for instance, telemarketers, insurance underwriters and tax preparers — are at risk.
On the other hand, jobs that require manual dexterity, creative intelligence or social intelligence are probably safe. Frey and Osbourne call these factors “computerization bottlenecks” and they’re found in jobs like recreational therapists; first-line supervisors of mechanics, installers and repairers; and audiologists. (Healthcare jobs in general are among those less likely to be automated.)
The 3 Kinds of Jobs That Are Safe From the Robots
John Hagel III, the founder and chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge, recently offered his predictions for the kinds of jobs that will survive the automation apocalypse. At Harvard Business Review, he posits that creators, composers and coaches will remain in demand.
Hagel’s predictions are in line with the Oxford research. The three job types rely on the computerization bottlenecks described by Frey and Osborne.
Per Hagel, creators “anticipate the rapidly evolving needs of individual customers and design and deliver creative and highly tailored products and services.” Composers “deeply understand the aspirations and needs of small niches of customers and who can compose engaging and rewarding experiences for those people.” And, coaches “help customers achieve more of their potential in various domains.”
“The truth is that we humans have an insatiable set of needs,” Hagel writes. “As soon as our most basic needs for food and shelter are met, we generally begin to raise our sights and look for ways to achieve more and more of our potential as human beings. And here’s the wonderful truth: the needs that allow us to achieve more and more of our potential as human beings will likely be precisely the ones that drive the evolution of work in ways that also enable us to achieve more and more of our potential in our work.”
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And Now for the Bad News
Hagel and others acknowledge that this shift will be challenging. The question is whether there will be enough of these jobs to support everyone who needs to work — and if not, what comes next.
Some economists have suggested that a world in which robots do the bulk of the work is a world in which income should be detached from labor. Universal Basic Income, which provides citizens with income independent of their employment status, has fans on both ends of the political spectrum.
But a two-year pilot in Finland that offered 2,000 random unemployed workers 560 euros a month was not extended. And economists point out that UBI comes with limitations, including inflation and a hefty price tag for income high enough to end poverty.
Of course, we can’t know for sure what the future of employment and income will look like. But certainly, the world of work will continue to change. In the meantime, you’re better equipped to roll with those changes if you’re in a job that relies on things humans do better than machines.
Tell Us What You Think
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