Jobless claims have decreased to their lowest level in a month. This is good news, but tempered by the U.S. unemployment rate remaining at 8.3 percent for a second month. Could robots be the reason?
As Alex Hern writes in the New Statesman,†we face a future of a “jobless recovery” not because of outsourcing work to China, not because of too many government regulations, but because there really are machines that, like Rosey the housekeeping robot in the Jetsons cartoon, can do tasks once thought only doable by humans.
Hern reviews an analysis of a†new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper by the†Washington Post’s Dylan Matthews. Since the 1980s, jobs that involve “routine” tasks, defined as “activities that can be performed by following a well-defined set of procedures,” have been disappearing. The labor market has is becoming increasingly polarized:
At one end of the market are non-routine cognitive jobs, “such as physicians, public relations managers, financial analysts, computer programmers, and economists” (and, one would hope, journalists), while at the other end are non-routine manual occupations “including janitors, gardeners, manicurists, bartenders, and home health aides”. Polarisation of the labour market comes from technological improvement replacing people in routine jobs, both manual and cognitive Ė “secretaries, bank tellers, retail salespeople Ö dressmakers, cement masons, and meat processing workers.”
Who needs a secretary when there’s email and automated phone trees, or a store clerk when you can scan the barcodes of the contents of your grocery cart?
Here are nine jobs that robots can do — which is to say, nine jobs that we humans may find ourselves shut out from and all too soon.
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