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How Automation Will Impact the Middle-Class Workforce

Emerson De Oliveira
Emerson De Oliveira

Automation is increasing in its scope and sophistication. Is your job on the line?

Whether you’re ordering at a fast-food restaurant or you’re using your Amazon Echo to order items with 2-day shipping, the impact of automation is obvious. The increasing prevalence of automated processes spells trouble for the middle class, in spite of the low unemployment numbers in the United States right now.

Many people are concerned about whether automation will cause people to lose jobs. Certainly, it’s causing a shift in the jobs market and will continue to do so. So, are all the doom and gloom predictions real or just hype? Will your job be in danger in the near future? Keep reading to find out:

  • How Automation will transform the middle-class
  • The industries most affected by Automation
  • How widespread unemployment will be
  • How Automation could benefit you

Automation will transform the demographics of the middle class workforce

Some studies are suggesting that approximately half of all U.S. jobs will be significantly affected by automation, while others have lower estimates. But whether it’s a severe change or not, it seems very likely that automation will also change the demographics of the middle class. Currently, because most of the industries that automation will impact are male-dominated, it seems that men will be affected by automation far more than women. It also appears that younger and older workers may have a harder time keeping jobs, while those who are middle-aged will have better job security.

New schooling and jobs may be necessary for many

In the future, a significant portion of workers may need to go back to school and spend another few years getting a degree to build a new profession. That could mean they will re-enter the job force at an entry-level job while in the middle of their working years. Some people will need to relocate to areas that are experiencing economic growth in spite of automation. Other workers may be close enough to retirement age that they will choose to simply retire early. Ultimately, automation could result in harsher income inequality in America.

The industries most affected by automation

Some job descriptions will change only slightly as automation takes over, while other jobs will become obsolete. If a job can be performed primarily using automation, it probably won’t be around for much longer. Or, at the very least, there will be significantly fewer people holding those jobs.

It is important to keep in mind that just because certain jobs are able to be automated does not necessarily mean they will disappear entirely. Some companies may not be able to afford to implement automation. Others may simply prefer doing things the “old-fashioned” way.

There are also entire industries that will struggle due to automation. Some of the main industries that will be affected include:

  • Transportation
  • Customer service
  • Healthcare
  • Legal services
  • Criminal justice
  • Advertising
  • Accounting and finance

Here’s a closer look at how automation will affect a few of these industries.

The impact of self-driving cars on the transportation industry

Those who work in the transportation industry will experience a significant shift due to automation. As self-driving cars become more popular and reliable, they will be a cheaper way to transport goods and people. This will mean that truck drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, and others will be less necessary.

Since more than 3.5 million Americans currently work as truck drivers, this is a huge industry to consider when it comes to automation. They are the backbone of blue-collar workers. It’s one of the most popular occupations in the country. However, self-driving cars will not necessarily take all truck driving jobs. Some drivers will still likely be needed in the near future to navigate sub-optimal road conditions and high-traffic areas.

How smart tech could hurt the criminal justice industry

Another industry that will be majorly impacted by automation is criminal justice. As tech becomes smarter, fewer people are needed to “catch the bad guys.” While this is a good thing for the safety of society, it’s not great for police and even people who work in the court system. Facial recognition is one of the most powerful forms of automation that makes it easy to find a criminal. Criminals could now even be sentenced and given parole using the power of automation.

The effectiveness of automated advertisements

Many people make the mistake of believing that automation will only negatively impact blue-collar jobs. That simply isn’t the case. White-collar jobs like those in the advertising industry will also be affected. For example, advertising is becoming increasingly dependent on automation. People can already see how this happening with social media ads. No one is physically choosing and placing ads for you to see – it’s all automatic.

Because advertising companies collect such a large amount of data, it’s easy for them to create effective ads targeted to individuals based on automation. Advertisements will only continue to become smarter and even more targeted. Automation is able to determine the success of an ad without human intervention.

How widespread will unemployment be?

So, if you’re a middle-class worker, do you have to fear permanent unemployment? Not necessarily. Career changes are the main concern. Most people who lose their jobs due to automation will be able to find employment elsewhere—it just will take some time and training. Middle-class workers need to be flexible in order to stay employed and realize that retraining could be inevitable.

In February 2019, the U.S. Department of labor awarded a $7.5 million grant to Midwest Urban Strategies (MUS). MUS is a group of 13 different workforce development boards located in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and several other Midwest states affected by the impact of Automation. Funds from the grant is helping dislocated middle-class workers reconnect with employment in growth occupations and industries not affected by automation. MUS rolled out pre-apprentice and registered apprenticeships programs with customized training to develop new opportunities for displaced workers.

The U.S. Department of labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) provides information on training programs and other services that are available to assist workers who have been laid off or are about to be laid off. Many of these services are designed to meet state and local needs.

How automation could benefit you

Automation isn’t all bad, some of the most notable benefits of automation in the workplace will include faster time to market, increased efficiency in work performed, higher worker productivity, and significant gains in customer satisfaction scores. Automation could be beneficial to the careers and salaries of highly skilled individuals. Note that highly skilled doesn’t necessarily mean “highly educated.” It will still affect those who hold bachelor’s, master’s, and even doctorate degrees. In addition, automation could be a catalyst for job creation. This is because automation is able to improve the productivity of workers, driving down the prices of goods and services. Because consumers are then able to afford more than in the past, new jobs are needed.

Prepare for the automation takeover

To survive the automation takeover, you will have to prepare your business for the rise of automation. Change is inevitable, and if you aren’t properly planning for it, your business will suffer. You’ll need to develop a tailored strategy to survive the automation takeover. Stay plugged into Business.com and visit EmersonDeOliveira.com to learn how to help your business thrive in spite of the challenges of automation.

 

Image Credit: ipopba/Getty
Emerson De Oliveira
Emerson De Oliveira,
business.com Writer
See Emerson De Oliveira's Profile
I am an entrepreneur and writer focusing on startups and small business development. I share hard-won experiences as a successful business leader on my entrepreneurial resources blog, where I also regularly post business development tips, ideas, and suggestions, as well as product reviews for aspiring and established entrepreneurs. With a decade of entrepreneurial experience, I believe in leveraging on strategic partnerships and technology to help aspiring and established entrepreneurs discover, launch, and scale businesses digitally. I am the Founder and President of Negotium Concepts, LLC. a business consulting and development firm located in Indiana.