Tech and employment
Let's start by agreeing on a simple premise; what can be automated, will be automated. The Labor Force Participation Rate measures the percentage of the population (over 16) that are either currently employed or actively seeking employment. In February of 2000, the rate reached an historic high, peaking at 67.3%. The rate has dropped nearly every month since, currently sitting at 62.8%.
Adjusted for the size of today's workforce, the 4.5% drop in the labor force rate equates to approximately 11 million fewer people either employed or actively seeking work. What does tech have to do with this phenomenon? Since 2000, the United States has lost 5 million factory jobs. A study by Ball State University discovered 88% of those jobs were lost to robots. In many ways the fundamental purpose of cities is to provide concentrated employment opportunities, what happens if the above trend continues? Accelerates?
We all benefit a great deal from automation across a variety of sectors. These include everything from business process automation, to inventory management automation, to safety automation. Automation creates efficiency and in many cases, can reduce the cost of goods and services. However, unless we are personally impacted, we generally don't see the job loss that comes with automation.
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Originally published by Aeon. 11/2016