Figures alone are incapable of telling the full story of automation. It’s made up of nuances and exceptions, like what type of jobs will need replacement, and how soon. Industry demands, employee skill level, job training, and resource redeployment can vary the outcome. Is it possible for automation to go too far—to render employees obsolete?
Automation has no universal effect, but it does have a measurable one. This is evidenced by MIT Researcher Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University. Their study observed how robotic automation impacts job reduction. The researchers found that the introduction of one robot per 1,000 workers reduced the employment ratio by 20 percent.
Though 20 percent is significant as far as job-reduction is concerned, it’s not the robotic takeover that was heralded with apprehension and even fear in many headlines. Some industries are tasked with a great degree of urgency to automate, as with car manufacturers, while others are slow, to adapt to changes without some precursor event.
Since the global pandemic, hotels are experimenting with robotic butlers to service rooms instead of in-person staff. Human fee collectors on toll-roads and bridges may soon become a thing of the past. Places with high concentrations of manufacturing have embraced the future of robotic automation and technological advance.
The Risk is Already Here
Whether an industry is willing to automate or not, automation in some form is, for the most part, inevitable. Economies rise and fall on reinvention. Sooner or later, whether by dramatic market disruption or slow, plodding technological advances, jobs are shaped by automation.
Labor costs are a bulky segment of any businesses’ expenses, and streamlining efficiencies generally results in cutting manual tasks down with software. This is smart for a couple of reasons. It introduces cost reduction to the product and ultimately consumer when there is less labor involved. It saves employees time to devote to higher strategy tasks. It eliminates frustration, wasted effort, and job satisfaction. And it cuts needles complexity out of business processes.
Professor Daron Acemoglu, explains the general outlook for the future of jobs as pertains to automation:
“It certainly won’t give any support to those who think robots are going to take all of our jobs. But it does imply that automation is a real force to be grappled with.”