Venture Explains: The Automation Job Threat

What is it? Just like the Luddites, the nineteenth century English textile workers who decided to smash the weaving machines putting them out of a job, more and more workers today are fearful that great leaps in automation and robotics will soon have them queuing up at the unemployment line.

How serious is the threat to jobs? A 2013 study by Oxford University academics Carl Frey and Michael Osborne found that 47 percent of American jobs were vulnerable to automation. While things look even more worrisome in the developing countries like India (69 percent) and China (77 percent), where workers are generally less skilled, and less capital is tied up in old ways of delivering products and services.

What sort of jobs are under most threat? Pretty much any repetitive, labor intensive position that doesn’t require a high degree of social intelligence. So anyone working on an assembly line, in a call center, bank or shop had better watch their back, as should translators, taxi drivers, and farmers. But conversely, anyone working in a field that requires more creativity and empathetic face-to-face communication with other human beings should be just fine. These could include everything from nurses and therapists, to graphic designers and managers.