AI and The Job Market: Are Robots Really Going to Take Our Jobs? [Part 2]
In our last article on AI and the job market, we looked at some of the benefits of AI adoption like new job opportunities with less repetitive tasks.
Today we’ll discuss the negative sides of the same trend.
We’ll be taking a look at some skills and positions that are declining in value due to automation and AI.
We’ll also talk about a possible solution to this problem.
The Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum will be our primary source of information as well as a few studies by McKinsey and Oxford Economics.
(If you’re looking for a quick answer you can check out WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com and see how likely it is for your job to be taken over by AI and robots)
Let’s dive in.
Tech skills and some soft skills might be on the rise, but other abilities are becoming less and less valuable. A few of those are:
Endurance and precision, memory, verbal, auditory and spatial abilities, technology use, monitoring and control, management of financial resources, quality control, time management, technology installation and maintenance. Information and data processing, as well as information search and transmission tasks, will also be mostly automated.
As you can see, that’s a significant number of skills that lots of people rely on daily.
With their decline, some jobs will also become obsolete.
Middle-Skilled Office Roles
Middle-skilled white-collar jobs have been hit the hardest by automation and AI (as well as other factors) over the last 20-25 years.
According to a report by the OECD, since the mid-1990s the share of middle-skilled occupations like cashiers and secretaries declined by 11%. At the same time, low-skilled occupations and high-skilled occupations both grew by 3% and 8,6% respectively.
Middle-skilled roles are typically held by people without a college or university degree. A few examples are:
Data entry clerks, accounting and bookkeeping clerks, postal service clerks, auditors, secretaries, customer service workers, telemarketers and brokers.
These roles managed to stay somewhat stable until 2008, but the global financial crisis decimated them. With AI and automation on the rise, the future is looking even worse.
Predictable Physical Work
Predictable physical work is also easily automatable. As a result, heavily routine-based jobs also take a big hit. A few examples include:
Couriers, food-preparation workers, dishwashers, cashiers, general mechanics, gaming-industry workers. Assuming self-driving cars continue to get better and don’t kill more pedestrians, professional drivers might also go extinct.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute workers who perform predictable physical work will be hit the hardest by automation and AI adoption. In the US and Japan, demand for these workers will decrease by over 30% and by 21%in Germany over the next few years.
A study by Oxford Economics also predicts that up to 20 million manufacturing jobs might be lost to robots by 2030.
So, predictable, routine-based, middle-skilled jobs are already disappearing, and they’ll continue to do so in the future.
Obviously, lots of people will lose their source of income because of this trend.
There are several ways to deal with this problem the most obvious of which is education.
The Reskilling Initiative
If you look at the jobs that are going extinct, you’ll see that most don’t require a college degree or any type of post-high school education.
If, however, you look at the new jobs of tomorrow – AI experts, data analysts, tech specialists in general, human-machine interaction designers to name a few – you probably won’t find a single position that doesn’t require a college degree.
Of course, anyone can learn the necessary skills for any job by himself without going to college or university. In reality, few people do.
We tend to romanticize dropouts, who made it big which is a form of selection bias. By focusing on the ultra-successful 0,00001% of people without a degree we ignore the vast number of people who live in poverty because they can’t afford college or dropped out. The reality is people get jobs easier and get paid more just because they finished some form of higher education.
That’s why in 2015 the most famous and the wealthiest dropout Bill Gates employed more people to go and finish college. As a tech giant and visionary, he also knows the unavoidable truth: The hard skills of tomorrow will be vastly different, and we’ll need to be more educated to master them.
Obviously, this is a problem for many people. Lots of resources on the Internet might be free, but college education and prime courses can be incredibly expensive.
In the USA since the 1980s, the average price of college has increased almost 8 times faster than the average wage, according to Forbes.
Some countries are exceptions to this rule, but overall post-high school education isn’t getting any cheaper.
That’s why employers need to join the battle and help their employees.
Some have already begun.
One example is Amazon. The tech giant pledges to upskill 100,000 US workers by 2025. This project will cost around 700 million USD.
So, why does Amazon plan on spending so much money on reskilling their own employees? Because they’ve figured out what we’ve been trying to explain in our articles about AI and the job market long ago. People need to be prepared for the next revolution in the job market. A quick example – the growth for data mapping specialists at Amazon has increased by 832% of the last couple of years. Growth for similar positions like data scientists (505%) and solutions architect (454%) has also skyrocketed. If you haven’t figured it out yet, these jobs require some form of post-high school education.
Also, it turns out firing unqualified people and hiring outsiders to fill specific positions is a pretty poor strategy for any company, especially one of Amazon’s size.
While Amazon might be the first company to take up such a massive reskilling initiative, it certainly won’t be the last.
The accessibility of AI technology is increasing daily as well as its commercial value, so AI adoption isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
The job market will go through another revolution.
Even so, this won’t be the end for us as workers.
Of all the conflicting information on this subject, one piece of practical advice that will serve you in the next 5 to 10 years is this: Turn education and upskilling into a habit. Especially if your job is predictable and routine-based.
The only way to ensure our place in the workforce of tomorrow is to possess the skills of tomorrow.
If you’re an employer, you should start building teams of professionals that already possess the skills of tomorrow. The job market isn’t going to get less competitive. You can start on your own or you can let RnD Talents find your ideal AI (and other tech) experts through our Hire service.
Finally, if you’re a qualified machine learning expert, AI professional or data scientist, you won’t have to worry about unemployment anytime soon.