Automation Eliminates Jobs Not Work: New Report

June 20, 2018
The issue is whether workers whose jobs are most likely to be disrupted by automation have the skills and training required for the new jobs being created.

The debate on whether or not automation is a job-cutting strategy has reached fever pitch. While automation is not new to many industries, such as auto, it’s occurring at a faster pace now and spreading across many industries. Its benefits have been touted as a way to increase productivity, overcome worker shortage and to eliminate routine jobs placing employees in higher value jobs. And of course, the downside is that jobs can be outright eliminated as robots move in.

A new paper, called “The Future Is Now: Workforce Opportunities And The Coming TIDE A Call To Action,” authored by law firm Littler Mendelson P.C.,  takes the viewpoint that “ technology eliminates jobs, not work. It is the continuous obligation of economic policy to match increases in productive potential with increases in purchasing power and demand. Otherwise, the potential created by technical progress runs to waste in idle capacity, unemployment, and deprivation.”

And it is the progress of this technology-induced displacement of employees (hereinafter, “TIDE” ) that is unstoppable and therefore must be dealt with in a strategic manner, the report concludes.

The report notes the following:

The accelerating pace of automation will likely lead to productivity increases on a scale not seen since the Industrial Revolution, while displacing tens of millions of American workers from their current occupations. Too often, news reports dramatically focus on AI and robots as job killers. Unfortunately, the debate over whether jobs eliminated will outnumber jobs created ignores two related and no less important questions: (1) With the fast-paced arrival of innovative and transformative technologies, will workers whose jobs are most likely to be disrupted have the skills and training required for the new jobs being created? (2) Will employers be able to fill existing vacancies as this unstoppable transformation occurs?

The authors expect the following large-scale trends:

 • In the medium- to long-term, productivity increases should lower costs for consumers and spur greater demand for labor across the economy as a whole.

• In the short-term, automation will displace many affected workers from their current jobs and force hundreds of millions of workers worldwide to transition to new occupations within the next 15 years.

 • At the same time, some classes of workers, such as those with disabilities, will see the range of jobs available to them increase substantially as automation advances.

The result of these trends is that employers will have to “radically change their approach to talent planning and provide, facilitate, and encourage life-long worker training." They can accomplish this in a number of ways.

 • Conducting and participating in organization-specific and industry-wide talent forecasting and planning

 • Elevating the importance and status of talent planning and development

 • Identifying the need for improved and expanded lifelong learning programs

 • Implementing workplace training and partnering with trade groups, educational institutions, and worker organizations to provide workers with access to additional vocational educational resources and training opportunities both in the community and online

• Placing TIDE-related issues front and center on policymakers’ radar including legislative, regulatory, and legal barriers and opportunities.

About the Author

Adrienne Selko | Senior Editor

Focus: Workforce, Talent 

Follow Me on Twitter: @ASelkoIW

Bio: Adrienne Selko has written about many topics over the 17 years she has been with the publication and currently focuses on workforce development strategies. Previously Adrienne was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck? which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics and EHS Today

Editorial mission statement: Manufacturing is the enviable position of creating products, processes and policies that solve the world’s problems. When the industry stepped up to manufacture what was necessary to combat the pandemic, it revealed its true nature. My goal is to showcase the sector’s ability to address a broad range of workforce issues including technology, training, diversity & inclusion, with a goal of enticing future generations to join this amazing sector.

Why I find manufacturing interesting: On my first day working for a company that made medical equipment such as MRIs, I toured the plant floor. On every wall was a photo of a person, mostly children. I asked my supervisor why this was the case and he said that the work we do at this company has saved these people’s lives. “We never forget how important our work is and everyone’s contribution to that.” From that moment on I was hooked on manufacturing.

I have talked with many people in this field who have transformed their own career development to assist others. For example, companies are hiring those with disabilities, those previously incarcerated and other talent pools that have been underutilized. I have talked with leaders who have brought out the best in their workforce, as well as employees doing their best work while doing good for the world. 

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