According to a group of accounting and consulting firms that just completed an analysis of the U.S. and world economy, we are on the verge of a major change in the worlds workforce. Their report says that within 15 years the U.S. could loose more than a third of its jobs not to foreign workers, but to automation and the use of robots. Countries like Britain, Germany and Japan, are facing only slightly smaller job losses from high tech advances.
The analysis emphasized that its estimates are based on the anticipated capabilities of robotics and artificial intelligence, but included an admission that no one is sure just what the direction and speed of developments new advances will take. The report says in the U.S., 38% of jobs could be at risk, compared with 30% in Britain, 35% in Germany and 21% in Japan.
The reason the U.S. is more exposed, is that more U.S. jobs in some areas are potentially more vulnerable than the same jobs in other countries. According to the report, jobs in the financial and insurance sectors have a higher potential for automation in the U.S. than in Britain. The reason? American finance workers are less educated than the Brits.
Most London finance employees work in international markets, while their U.S. counterparts deal primarily with the domestic retail market. Therefore U.S. workers “do not need to have the same educational levels.” Jobs that require less education are at higher risk of automation. Generally, any job that is minimum wage or which is repetitive is at risk. Other areas include: hospitality, food service, transportation and storage.
Due to advances in driver-less transport, truck driving probably will be the first form of driving in the U.S. to be fully automated. That’s because long distance trucking is confined to highways and interstates, the easiest roads to navigate without human intervention. But there are some roadblocks to a robot takeover. Several economic, legal and regulatory hurdles could prevent automation, even in jobs where it would be technologically and financially feasible.
Technical and legal issues including the cost of robots and maintenance could be too expensive to replace low wage workers. While accident liability could prove to be a derailing factor for self-driving vehicles. In other words, moving robots outside of a controlled environment is “still a big step,” said John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC in Britain.
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday that he wasn’t worried about artificial intelligence taking over American jobs. “I think we’re so far away from that that it’s not even on my radar screen,” he told Axios Media. “I think it’s 50 or 100 more years.”
Automation could move humans into higher paying and more productive jobs, but to do that we must invest in training and education that will prepare them for better jobs. In addition, automation could create jobs, especially in sectors that are harder to automate, such as healthcare. In short, if your worried about a minimum wage of 15 dollars an hour, maybe you should be asking for a course in servo-motors or Laser focus alignment.