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Monday, February 19, 2018

Strategic CSR - Jobs

The article in the url below does a good job of framing the threats posed to specific jobs over the next few years:
"Thirteen years ago, two prominent U.S. economists wrote that driverless cars couldn't execute a left turn against oncoming traffic because too many factors were involved. Six years later, Google proved it could make fully autonomous cars, threatening the livelihoods of millions of truck and taxi drivers. Throughout much of the developed world, gainful employment is seen as almost a fundamental right. But what if, in the not-too-distant future, there won't be enough jobs to go around? That's what some economists think will happen as robots and artificial intelligence increasingly become capable of performing human tasks. Of course, past technological upheavals created more jobs than they destroyed. But some labor experts argue that this time could be different: Technology is replacing human brains as well as brawn."

The article provides several graphics that compare types of jobs (goods vs. services), different industries (e.g., telecommunications vs. newspapers), and the effects of education (the less education, the greater risk). One graphic, in particular, though stood out – it compared the amount of jobs lost in the coal industry versus the number of jobs lost in the retail industry:

"In the U.S., for example, department stores employ 25 times more workers than coal mining companies. And as customers increasingly purchased goods via the internet, average employment in the first four months of 2017 was down 26,800 from the same period a year earlier, against just 2,800 job losses in coal."

Those are not the numbers you would expect given the amount of political and media attention devoted to the coal industry. John Oliver also touched on this subject in one of his shows last summer. Enjoy!

In spite of the fear mongering, the article concludes by reminding us that predicting the effects of technological innovation is far from a science. In reality, we are only guessing about how current technologies will affect future employment, let alone the effects of technologies that have yet to be invented:

"There's ample room for skepticism. U.S. productivity growth has been slow, exactly the opposite of what one would expect if robots were taking over. Also, advances in artificial intelligence could end up focusing mostly on specific tasks rather than entire jobs, augmenting rather than replacing humans. That said, history teaches us that it's hard to predict how technological change will unfold. Even if, as some economists predict, new jobs and industries eventually replace those being automated, large portions of the global workforce may need retraining. And if work becomes a luxury, widespread joblessness and greater inequality could redefine the challenge of ensuring a social safety net."
It is worth keeping all of this in mind as we sift through the various doomsday articles about this issue.
Take care
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Is Your Job About to Disappear?
By Mark Whitehouse, Mira Rojanasakul, and Cedric Sam
June 22, 2017
Bloomberg Businessweek