I used to go into a supermarket and pay a person. Now, I swipe items across a screen, fail to balance them in the small space provided and tut impatiently while I wait for a real actual person to come and confirm that I look old enough to buy a bottle of wine (I do). I have been waiting for the shout out from the unions about what surely must be a massive source of job losses.
Recently I came across some research from Frey and Osborne (no, not that one) of Oxford University, summarised in this article in The Economist, estimating the probability that computerisation will lead to job losses within the next two decades:
Recreational therapists 0.003
Athletic trainers 0.007
Chemical engineers 0.02
Health technologists 0.40
Commercial pilots 0.55
Word processors and typists 0.81
Real estate sales agents 0.86
Technical writers 0.89
Retail salespersons 0.92
Accountants and auditors 0.94
Overall, Frey and Osborne estimate that a massive 47 per cent of US jobs are at risk – and find that lower paid jobs requiring lower educational attainment have a far higher probability of being affected by computerisation.
The Economist article on the future of work that features this research ends by saying this: ‘society may find itself sorely tested if, as seems possible, growth and innovation deliver handsome gains to the skilled, while the rest cling to dwindling employment opportunities at stagnant wages.’ Yet, if society can ensure a living wage for all and distribute some of the gains of the skilled, sharing of available work could also deliver all the benefits of a shorter working week for all.