We’ve all heard it plenty of times before—the story of a future where robots have taken over jobs and rendered thousands unemployed. You’ll hear a great deal about the impending doom surrounding automation and the massive loss of jobs, but what will actually happen? Will it be as bad as we imagine it will be? What will the human workforce be like in a couple of years?
The research and early findings surrounding these concerns may surprise you. Turns out the future isn’t nearly as gloomy as most people believe. In reality, automation will only enhance the growth of new job opportunities, not replace the human workforce. Here’s why.
Increased Supply and Demand
Looking back through history, automation has never been a bad thing.
Contrary to the fears surrounding a robot takeover, automation has created more jobs for humans thanks to an increase in demand for goods and services resulting from improved productivity. With automation, the nature of the employees’ work shifts to tasks machines cannot yet accomplish.
Empowered by technology, people are able to produce goods at cheaper rates and in shorter periods of time.
This translates to lower costs, increased consumer demand, and the resulting need to bump up supply in order to meet this demand. In turn, more people need to be hired in order to keep up.
In a widely cited example, research on the labor force in the UK conducted by Deloitte found that, automation had driven the loss of over 800,000 lower-skilled jobs across industrial and manufacturing sectors within a 15-year period. However, these same forces ended up contributing 3.5 million new jobs (a 340% increase) paying £10,000 per year more than the ones they replaced.
Safer, Higher Quality Jobs
Compared to today’s standards, the working conditions during the Industrial Revolution were absolutely appalling. It would, therefore, only be logical to assume that future generations will similarly look back at today’s working conditions in factories and warehouses with amazement.
As far as automation is concerned, the arrow seems to be pointing towards safer, better quality, and more rewarding jobs in the near future.
Workers in the manufacturing and warehousing sectors can expect a future where daily tasks become less labor-intensive and dangerous and instead become more creative and intellectually challenging. In a 2016 whitepaper, Siemens points to additional examples including automating compliance with safety standards, instant visibility into potential safety problems, and integration of safety systems into equipment as benefits of automation to worker safety.
Looking at the future from a wider perspective, automation will contribute to an improvement in the overall quality of life for workers in different sectors of industry. Short-term fears are understandable, but if history is anything to go by, all is not lost if we keep an open mind to new and unexplored possibilities.
In summary, automation will not be the bane of the human workforce as is a common belief. There is still plenty of tasks we humans can do better than the machines, and with that in mind, there is no need for panic over job losses.
Technology will inevitably keep getting better and better. Soon enough, machines will be able to perform more complex tasks, but the human component will remain. Rather than the robots replacing people, it is likely that we’ll see workers spending more time on other creative, and less routine tasks.