Will Automation Take Your Job?

John Krautzel
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A 2018 study from enterprise software provider AgileCraft outlines the types of jobs at risk when it comes to workplace automation. The study combined data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and research from the University of Oxford in England to determine what office jobs are least safe from automation over the next 20 years. The results may surprise you.

Job Fields

Entire industries may transform due to workplace automation, which means employees may have to retrain themselves to have better job security. Food preparation, office and administrative support, sales, building cleaning and maintenance, and transportation or material handling are the top five industries that may become obsolete when it comes to human workers. That's because these jobs focus on mundane, every day, repetitive tasks such as putting food together, driving over a long-haul route, or responding to emails. When you consider technology such as Flippy the Burger-Flipping Robot and self-driving semi-trucks, these tasks are becoming more obsolete as technology improves.

On the other hand, several fields are considered safe when it comes to workplace automation. Legal, risk management, education, social services and computer science jobs are at the least risk. These choices make sense because they require much deeper nuances and human thought to reach conclusions and make judgment calls on a regular basis.

Specific Occupations

Specific occupations may become obsolete thanks to workplace automation. Cashiers, office clerks, administrative assistants, retail sales people and food prep/servers are on the way out. As of 2018, there are 22 million people who have these types of jobs. The reason for automation taking over these positions is because there aren't specialized skill sets required to perform these jobs. Contrarily, elementary school teachers, registered nurses, supervisors, general managers and business operations specialists have some of the lowest risks of becoming obsolete.

Education Levels

People who hold a bachelor's degree have a 16 percent chance of losing their jobs to workplace automation versus 32 percent with a doctorate or professional degree and 42 percent with an associate's degree. Researchers aren't sure why, but this means more education might not mean better job security in the future. People with just a high school education or no education are also at very high risks of not having jobs with increased automation.

What the Study Indicates Overall

The Oxford study, conducted in 2013, revealed that a total of 47 percent of occupations at that time faced obsolescence because automated tools make mundane, everyday tasks easier. The key to ensuring you have a job is to improve your computer and software skills while also becoming indispensable at your job. Earn a promotion to management or become really good at repairing and fixing machines at the office to add value to your skill set.

Jobs at risk from workplace automation do not necessarily mean you might lose your career in the next 20 years. This trend simply indicates you should learn new skills, either with computers or management, sooner rather than later to stay competitive. What jobs have you seen disappear at your workplace?


Photo courtesy of Emerging Issues at Flickr.com

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