Are We Losing Jobs To Robots?

By Anthony K

A report by the Oxford Martin School regarding work automation and the possibility of robots and related technology replacing humans established that of the different 702 job categories inspected, 47% were found to be prone to automation within the next two decades. The outcome of this report completely toppled our notions of the future of the workforce. A new report in the US by the National Bureau of Economic Research offers a greater wake-up call. Authored by economists Pascual Restrepo from Boston University and Daron Acemoglu from MIT, the report supports the conclusion from Oxford Martin. It continues to suggest that the jobs lost aren’t likely to come back.

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The other side of the coin asserts that automation’s net effect results in jobs creation and not job losses. This side points out the jobs created directly among persons maintaining and designing the technologies and, at times, the entire new industries that robotics creates. However, the most overlooked aspect is the indirect effect that labor-saving inventions create. Typically, automation enables companies to do more with less, making them expand and lower the prices of the goods and services they offer, making them more competitive. In turn, cheaper services and goods are affordable to consumers who can then spend more on other things.

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A good illustration is the ATM. When ATMs were first introduced in the 80s, people thought that they would replace bank tellers.  With time each bank branch reduces the number of tellers it had employed, but ATM made operating bank branches cheaper, resulting in more bank branches and an overall increase in bank teller jobs.