The Threat of Workforce Automation

One of the biggest threats to your traditional job over the next 10 years is the introduction and widespread adoption of artificial intelligence in the workplace. Literally millions of jobs are at risk of being outright eliminated by robots, technology, and other forms of artificial intelligence software. Even the entry level job at McDonald's is under pressure of being replaced with electronic order boards, robotic cooks and servers, and even maintenance people as washrooms become self-cleaning.

Just walk into any fast food restaurant today and you will likely see a digital order board that has replaced the 14-year-old pimple-faced minimum wage student who may soon be getting paid $15 an hour to make and sell you a hamburger. New proposed minimum wage laws are hastening the hospitality industry’s adoption of AI as they struggle to offset labor costs.

Of course robots and order boards don’t show up late for work, they don’t call in sick, don’t quit on short notice, never make mistakes on customer orders, and are generally more reliable and less expensive than humans. These digital order boards don't demand a higher wage, don't need to take a bathroom break, can work 24/7/365, don't need vacation pay, and certainly don't sue their employers for harassment.

Increasingly, these self checkouts are being introduced at big chain grocery stores which threatens high paying unionized cashier jobs such as those at Safeway. Automated warehousing, shipping, trucks, and packing facilities further threaten low skilled labor jobs that were once considered safe from automation.

It has been estimated recently that upwards of 40% of all jobs will be eliminated in the next 10 to 20 years due to workforce automation and artificial intelligence. In fact, this course that you were taking is an example of how digital technology can replace me as an instructor at the front of the classroom or seminar event. Using this type of technology, I can instruct thousands or millions of students simultaneously with the latest and greatest information, and then I can update it anytime and roll out those changes to everybody at once. This allows my to focus on the tasks that can’t be automated or replaced by machines.

Articles of Interest

The following articles review some of the industries that will be heavily impacted by widespread adoption of AI technology. (Although these are mostly Canadian-based articles, the same risk is posed on both sides of the border).

It is for this reason that small business ownership MUST be considered as at least a Plan B option for nearly every employee, especially if you're on one of the endangered jobs lists. Forewarned is forearmed.

Four out of 10 Canadian jobs to be lost to technology: report

Published Wednesday, June 15, 2016 9:21PM EDT

A tinny voice asks, “Would you like fries with that?” A driverless truck barrels down the highway. A flashing screen says, “That colour really brings out your eyes.”

Welcome to our automated future, where more than 40 per cent of Canadian jobs have been replaced by technology.

“Our findings show that a significant percentage of Canadian jobs are at a high risk of being replaced by automation over the next 10 to 20 years,” Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship executive director Sean Mullin said in a written statement.

In a report released Wednesday, the Ryerson University-based institute says that nearly 42 per cent of Canada’s workforce is at a high risk of being affected by automation over the next two decades.

Worried that you’ll be replaced by a robot? You can see what the probability of automation in your field is via this interactive chart

“However, we don’t believe that all of these jobs will be lost,” Mullin said. “Many will be restructured and new jobs will be created as the nature of occupations change due to the impact of technology and computerization.”

Automation, which is the replacement of workers with technology, can already be seen everywhere from automated grocery store checkout counters to electronic immigration kiosks at airports. But with continuing advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, automation is now moving beyond manual and routine tasks to roles that require thinking, such as driving a trucks or conducting job interviews.

According to the report, titled “The Talented Mr. Robot: The Impact of Automation on Canada’s Workforce,” the majority of high-risk occupations can be found in fields such as office support and general administration, sales and services, transportation and distribution, manufacturing, and construction. Generally speaking, these jobs have low pay and require little education

Jobs that are at a low risk of automation are generally associated with high skills and earnings, such as work in science, technology, engineering and math. People working in fields that require creativity and human contact -- such as nursing, teaching and design -- will also remain in demand.

“We hope these findings can help contribute to an important debate about how Canada should prepare for the effects of automation and computerization on our labour force,” Mullin added.

Journalists – thankfully – only face an eleven per cent probability of robot replacement.

42% of Canadian jobs at high risk of being affected by automation, new study suggests

CBC News ·

More than 40 per cent of the Canadian workforce is at high risk of being replacedby technology and computers in the next two decades, according to a new report out Wednesday.

The Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship at Toronto's Ryerson University said in its report that automation previously has been restricted to routine, manual tasks. However, breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and advanced robotics now means that automation is moving into "cognitive, non-routine tasks and occupations, such as driving and conducting job interviews."

The report said the top five occupations — in terms of number of people employed in them — facing a high risk of automation are:

  1. Retail salesperson.
  2. Administrative assistant.
  3. Food counter attendant.
  4. Cashier.
  5. Transport truck driver.

The institute put a 70 per cent or higher probability that "high risk" jobs will be affected by automation over the next 10 to 20 years, and it said workers in the most susceptible jobs typically earn less and have lower education levels than the rest of the Canadian labour force.

"We don't believe that all of these jobs will be lost," said Sean Mullin, executive director of the Brookfield Institute, in a release. "Many will be restructured, and new jobs will be created as the nature of occupations change due to the impact of technology and computerization."

Jobs deemed to be at a low risk of being affected by automation — having a less than 30 per cent chance — are linked to high skill levels and higher earnings, such as management and jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The top five low risk occupation, by employment, are

  1. Retail and wholesale trade managers.
  2. Registered nurses.
  3. Elementary and kindergarten teacher.
  4. Early childhood educators and assistant.
  5. Secondary school teachers.

The Brookfield Institute's report said low-risk occupations are projected to produce nearly 712,000 new jobs, absent automation, between 2014 and 2024, while high-risk occupation are expected to add 396,000 over that same time frame.

On a provincial basis, Ontario has the lowest proportion — 41.1 per cent — of jobs at high risk of automation, while P.E.I. has the highest with over 45 per cent of jobs at high risk of automation over the next 10 to 20 years.

The institute also said workers in the jobs deemed at high risk in the study are disproportionately between 15 and 24 years, while workers in lower risk jobs tend to be "prime-aged workers," between 25 and 54.

"Canada's younger and, to a lesser extent, older populations are more likely to be vulnerable to the effects of automation," the study said.

"We hope these findings can help contribute to an important debate about how Canada should prepare for the effects of automation and computerization on our labour force," Mullin said.

The institute suggested that more study is needed into high-risk occupations to determine their ability to withstand automation and technology-based restructuring.

'As well or better than humans': Automation set for big promotions in white-collar job market

Expert says millions of Canadian jobs could be at risk over next decade

Angela Hennessy · CBC ·

Visualizing the Jobs Lost to Automation

May 30, 2017

By Jeff Desjardins

Visualizing the Jobs Lost to Automation

The employment landscape of the future will look very different than it does today.

While we’ve charted the automation potential of U.S. jobs before, today’s graphic from Henrik Lindberg perhaps tells the story more succinctly.

In plain black and white, it shows the jobs that exist today in contrast to the jobs that are expected to disappear as a result of automation in the workplace. Though, technically speaking, it is applying the probabilities of the widely-cited Frey & Osborne (2013) study to U.S. jobs as of 2016 to give an expected value to each job title.

A Different Landscape

In the near-future, many of today’s most common jobs may be changed profoundly. People working as retail salespersons, cashiers, fast food counter workers, and truck drivers will likely see opportunities in those fields dry up as automation takes place.

At the same time, jobs such as those in teaching and nursing are expected to stand the test of time, as they require empathy, creativity, and a human touch not yet available through machines. In the coming decades, it’s possible that these could even be professions that employ the most people overall.

Casualties of the Fall?

In the vastly different employment landscape of the future, the worry is that low income workers will have fewer opportunities available to them as technology comes into play.

The good news? Historically this has not been true. As an example, nearly 500 years ago, Queen Elizabeth I had a similar fear when she denied a patent for an automated knitting machine. The thought was that the machine would kill jobs, though eventually factories and companies adopted similar technologies anyways. With the lower prices, higher demand for knitted goods, and more capital for investment, jobs for factory weavers actually quadrupled in the coming years.

As we’ve seen over time, while machines destroy jobs, they also often create new ones.

Composition of U.S. Job Market over the Last 150+ Years

Jobs as a Percent

The bad news? It is now clear that agricultural jobs of the early 20th century were replaced with the white collar jobs of today. However, it is much more difficult to forecast out how some of the jobs of the future will be created, especially for low income workers.

The knitting example above certainly applies in some situations – but in others, it’s hard to say what will happen. For example, with millions of unemployed long-haul truck drivers, what roles will these people be taking in the future job market?

Even with costs of transportation and logistics going down, increased demand, and more capital to invest, it seems that there’s going to be a lengthy period of time where many of these people will have trouble finding work.

Do they join the company to help manage the many more trucks that are self-driving? It’s unlikely, and that is the part of the optimism about automation and future jobs that is the hardest to reconcile.

Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship - Profile

Complete and Continue