How Robots Affect the Job Market

February 26th, 2016 by

In the near future, somewhere between 50 percent of 75 percent of jobs may not be safe.

Why? Not because of cheap labor. At least not the kind of cheap labor you normally think of. No, this kind of labor is metallic and does not think for itself: robots.

Rise of the Machines

Robots and automation are now a widely common features of the American economy. Everywhere we go, from the car wash to the ATM, our needs are met by robots rather than human beings. Machines and robots have been displacing flesh-and-blood workers in the manufacturing sector for some time now. Since at least the 1970s, primarily blue-collar workers have seen their jobs in industry (especially automobile manufacturing) replaced by machines.

Employers are well aware that robots never strike; robots never demand higher wages; and robots complete their work no matter how laborious it is.

Automation of foundry with robots

A robot at work at a foundry

Many experts have levied predictions that spell doom for a wide variety of occupations. By the end of the century or sooner, they say, as much as 75 percent of jobs could be done by robots.

Although this seems far off, there are a number of areas in the economy where the effects can already be seen.

4 million people work in public sanitation, another 4 million people work as drivers of some kind, and 7 million more people work in routinized jobs for the finance and business sectors. Between trash-collecting robots, self-driving cars, and number-crunching machines, every single one of these jobs could be eliminated within a generation.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that 5 million other jobs will be lost due to robot replacements by 2020. Oxford University in England predicts that 47% of current jobs will be computerized in the next 20 years.

We even have robotic vacuums that are cleaning our floors. What was once a novelty is swiftly turning into economic reality. Some tech experts are heralding the “end of manual labor in our lifetimes.”

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has unleashed its own robotic nightmare on the market called Atlas. This robot knows how to get back up after being knocked down, among other things. How long before this technology becomes ubiquitous?

A Ray of Hope

There could be some good news on the robot front, however.

Mercedes-Benz announced that it is replacing many of the robotic “workers” on its assembly lines across all of its manufacturing plants with actual human beings. This is because the assembly of small and varied parts, such as tire caps and special options, are too intricate for machines to handle.

“Robots can’t deal with the degree of individualization and the many variants that we have today,” said Markus Schaefer, the company’s head of production.

factory

Inside a large factory

In addition to employing more human beings on its assembly lines, Mercedes is joined by fellow automakers Audi and BMW in exploring sensor technology that will allow robots to work alongside humans without accidentally mauling them.

One can only hope this doesn’t end with the creation of Skynet!

 

The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.