If predictions are as accurate as a forecast weather report, the robot and automation system industry could kill over 20 million manufacturing jobs worldwide between 2030-2032, according to recent reports by expert economists and the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). A new study from Oxford Economics suggested that within the next 11 years, approximately 14 million robots will dominate China’s workforce alone. Economists analyzing long-term trends surrounding automation in the workforce hastily noted the number of operable robots worldwide had increased threefold over the past two decades to 2.25 million.
Robots Replacing People?
As the U.S. employment sector seeks innovative ways to fill labor gaps, many are increasingly turning to the assistance of automated technology and robots. Although the use of automation isn’t a new arrival in the labor market, these tech operations have become extremely valuable for companies struggling to meet demand in a recent tight market, the Wall Street Journal reported. Orders for robots increased 40 percent in the first quarter of 2022, and were up 21 percent overall in 2021, according to the Association for Advancing Automation, which earned the industry an estimated value of $1.6 billion.
“People want to remove labor,” CEO David A. Zapico of Amtek Inc., told a Bloomberg reporter in November. Zapico said the company had been “firing on all cylinders” to meet demand.
In a Wall Street Journal article, an industry bigwig said. “The robots are becoming easier to use,” said chief executive officer Michael Cicco of industrial robot provider Fanuc America. “Companies used to think that automation was too hard or too expensive to implement.” As the private employment sector continues to use robots and automation many expressed deep concern about the machines replacing human workers.
“Automation, if it goes very fast, can destroy a lot of jobs,” Darren Acemoglu told the Journal. “The labor shortage is not going to last, this is temporary.” Acemoglu is an economics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
When researchers predicted the future dominance of robots their reasoning suggested the robots would present benefits in terms of productivity and economic growth, yet they also realize the boom in superior technology such as robots and automation were bound to present disadvantages for human labor.
However, let’s assume robot installations were boosted to 30 percent more than what the forecast predicts by 2030, the researchers indicated this may lead to a 5.3 percent boost in global GDP during that year.
“This equates to adding an extra $4.9 trillion per year to the global economy by 2030(in today’s prices) – equivalent to an economy greater than the projected size of Germany,” the report said.
The Forrester Report, a research and advisory firm issued a report indicating “The Future of U.S. jobs, 2032: The Rise of Human Machine Teams.” The report predicts that while automation will eliminate some jobs, it could also, “reshape, and even invigorate the U.S. job market as organizations ramp up automation deployment,” according to a press release. Forrester also predicts that automation will replace 11 million – or 7 percent – of U.S. jobs by 2032. Signs of automation are gradually replacing workers in the retail sector. For instance, consider how kiosks are available in certain stores, and Walmart has a self-checkout digital register for customers to scan purchases and pay for their item(s).
The U.S. Government Accountability Office released its new report called “Workforce Automation: Insight into Skills and Training Programs for Impacted Workers.” The GAO illustrates the kind of employees at risk of losing their jobs to automation and further, the GAO describes what skills they need to get in-demand jobs.
An eye-opening study conducted by McKinsey Global Institute indicated African Americans are in trouble if they don’t “make more economic investments into high-skilled jobs in cities and markets where Blacks are overrepresented that can directly pave a path of job stability.”
The report further suggested there should be initiatives by university/collegiate education to recruit and retain Black students.
“Workers with lower levels of education and who perform routine tasks – think cashiers or file clerks – face the most significant risks of their jobs being automated.” GAO official Dawn Locke said researchers estimate that anywhere from 9 percent to 47 percent of jobs could be automated in the future. Locke is a workforce training and education expert.
“Automation should concern Black America,” said Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League.
Writing an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Tribune in 2019, Morial highlighted a McKinsey report which stated that artificial intelligence is poised to disrupt at least 4.5 million jobs for African Americans with a 10 percent greater likelihood of automation-based job loss. Equally important is the fact this huge trend will affect Black men in a bad way, those without college degrees. Black women, meanwhile, will considerably fare better over white and Asian-American populations, according to the report written in The Business Insider.
Morial further states, “The National Urban League addressed these concerns in our State of Black America report; ‘Powering the Digital Revolution’, which shines a spotlight on African Americans’ underrepresentation in the kind of jobs that are least likely to be displaced by artificial intelligence. We calculated a Digital Inclusion Index – a variation of our traditional Equality Index that measures the relative economic and social status of Black Americans as compared with whites.” Morial concluded, “We found a Digital Inclusion Index of 74.1 percent, with 100 representing true equality between Black and White Americans.”
A CNBC article said automation and robotic researchers suggested that governments could incentivize companies and workers with financial benefits for engaging in local programs to retrain workers. The researchers also called on policymakers to develop “aggressive, forward-thinking programs” to counteract the negative impacts of automation. Workers were also advised, the article added, to audit their own jobs to better understand the balance between the human skills it required and the skills that could potentially be taken over by a machine.
Senior NewsBlaze Business Reporter Clarence Walker can be reached at [email protected]