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Automation and Job Loss Statistics in 2019 – The Robots Are Coming

Automation Job Loss Statistics - Featured Illustration

Employment in the buggy-whip industry is about 0%.

That’s the example economists cite when they talk about technology and employment. As automobiles replaced horses, industries based on the old order shut down. The Industrial Revolution left millions unemployed, their jobs rendered obsolete by machines.

Economists agree that new technologies can create a large wave of short-term unemployment.

They agree that some jobs disappear forever, what they refer to as “displacement.” Workers in obsolete industries find jobs, if they can, in emergent fields related to the new technology.

Economists do not agree about the long-term automation and job loss statistics. Some say new technology always creates abundant jobs for workers with the proper training. Others aren’t so sure.

Today, automation, artificial intelligence, and a worldwide digital communications network serve as an empowering platform for unprecedented innovation. More inexpensive goods, less tedious work, and previously unimaginable levels of personalization are just some of the ways our lives are likely to improve through the sheer power of technology. 

Nevertheless, this unprecedented new age of progress also heralds a period of great challenges and uncertainty, especially when it comes to employment.

Millions of jobs in America have been lost recently, lost never to return due to automation. And the eye of the storm is not yet upon us. 

What can we expect?

Read on.

Key Automation Job Loss Stats – Editor’s Choice

  • Percentage of workers worried about losing jobs to automation: 37.
  • Annual growth in the demand for industry robots: 14%.
  • Transportation and manufacturing are industries with the highest risk of job loss.
  • The share of jobs at potential high risk of automation is around 3% by the early 2020s.
  • 25% of American jobs are at high risk of automation.

1. More than 25% of jobs in the US are experiencing high levels of disruption due to automation.

(Brookings Institution)

This figure amounted to 36 million jobs in 2016, with more than 70% at high risk of being replaced by automation. The same research on jobs at risk of automation found that 36% of American workers face medium-level exposure to these disruptive technologies by 2030, while 39% – or 57 million jobs – will face low-level exposure. 

2. 37% of workers are worried about losing their jobs directly because of automation.

(PricewaterhouseCoopers)

Statistics on automation show an increasingly worried workforce as the number of people worried about losing their jobs due to technological advancements increased by 3% compared to 2014. Innovations in AI and robotics suggest that it is not only the uneducated who are at risk of being displaced. Every job is at risk. However, the same research found that 73% of workers believed that technology could never replace the human mind.

3. The number of operational industrial robot jobs increases by 14% annually.

(International Federation of Robotics)

One of the most visible ways that automation impacts jobs is the ever-increasing reliance on robots for industrial work. In 2016, the number of industrial robots was 1.83 million. Experts expect that figure to grow to 3.05 million by 2020. The statistics indicate that new innovations are speeding up this trend, and that we are very likely going to see an even more drastic yearly increase in the robot workforce.

4. Almost 70% of workers believe that automation will offer them an opportunity to qualify for more highly skilled work.

(International Federation of Robotics)

A survey by the International Federation of Robotics found that even as the number of jobs eliminated by automation rises, people remain optimistic about potential benefits. Of 7,000 surveyed workers, almost 70% expressed hope about higher-skilled employment.

5. 57% of employers say that the main goal of automation is the augmentation of worker performance and productivity.

(Willis Towers Watson)

While there is a prevalent belief and more than a little evidence that business owners are shifting toward automated technologies and innovations just to replace expensive human workers, the truth may be quite different. In fact, analyses of automation and job loss show that most employers wish new technologies to support their workers in completing business processes, with only 11% looking to automate their operations to a great extent. The research found that 15% of employers invest in automation in order to reduce risks and avoid mistakes.

6. More than 70% of people would be willing to augment their bodies and brains in order to improve their employment prospects.

(PricewaterhouseCoopers)

The impact of automation on employment will not only mean losing jobs to a robotic threat, but will also bring us face-to-face with a completely different issue: Our jobs will increasingly depend on our willingness to augment our bodies and brains to stay competitive.

 With many people already willing to fuse with machines in one way or another, it is clear how powerful our drive to keep the edge really is.

7. Transportation, storage, and manufacturing industries face the highest risk of automation.

(PricewaterhouseCoopers)

Research on job loss due to automation from 2017 suggests that automation will happen in three overlapping waves that will have different levels of impact on different industries. That is why some branches of the economy, like financial services, will face a bigger threat from the algorithm wave, for instance, as advanced algorithms are bound to outperform humans on pure data analysis. 

Other industries, especially transportation and storage, are at the top of the list because they face huge impact from the augmentation wave and the autonomy wave. 

The same goes for manufacturing. The construction industry follows at third place, while industries like education and social work stand firmly at the bottom of the list, making them the least likely to face significant automation job displacement.

8. Artificial intelligence alone is expected to have a $15.7 trillion economic impact by 2030.

(PricewaterhouseCoopers)

Research shows that AI will have a big impact on the GDP of countries like China and the United States. China’s GDP is expected to grow by an astonishing 26% due to AI, while North America faces a potential 14% boost. Almost half of these economic gains will come from product enhancements, experts say. It is projected that AI taking jobs away from humans will drive product variety, with increased attractiveness, personalization and affordability. 

9. The automation potential for jobs that require less than a bachelor’s degree is 55%.

(Brookings Institution)

Manual production and office administration jobs will continue to face the most risk when it comes to automation in the next decade. Positions that don’t require a bachelor’s degree are almost at double the risk of occupations that do. Only 24% of those jobs are likely to be automated, while occupational groups like food preparation and serving could face disruption of up to 80%. Automation job loss statistics show these jobs in stark contrast to jobs that require higher levels of education such as engineering and financial operations. Only about 14% of those jobs are projected to disappear in the short term.

10. America’s heartland states face the greatest levels of risk due to automation.

(Brookings Institution)

Just as the IT boom was mostly confined to big-city states on the coasts, so automation is likely to be bring employment opportunities to displaced educated workers on on the east and west coasts. States in the heart of the US are at the highest risk of losing jobs due to automation. The biggest problem these places have is that in some, only 25% of adults hold bachelor’s degrees. This automatically puts them at high risk of being disrupted by automation, especially considering that heartland states rely heavily on industries like manufacturing, agriculture and transportation. 

To better illustrate the threat, the statistics on projected job loss due to automation in some rural parts of Alabama, Arkansas, and other states show that these places face potential risks of up to 64.4%. This is in stark contrast to metropolitan places with more highly educated employees. They face disruption rates below 31.6%.

11. By the early 2020s, the share of jobs at potential high risk of automation will be around 3%.

(PricewaterhouseCoopers)

Data and statistics on job loss to automation show that the early 2020s will not carry with them a high increase in job automation. This trend will skyrocket, however, toward the second part of the decade. Researchers say the risk will rise to 20% by 2030. Researchers say there will be a second rise to 30% by 2035, and that the automation risk will begin to plateau after that. 

12. By 2022, the total task hours completed by humans will drop by 13%.

(World Economic Forum)

Job loss to automation statistics from 2018 suggest that 71% of total task-hours are currently completed by humans, compared to 29% that are done by machines. The study predicts that if current trends continue, in just four years the average will shift to 58% completed by humans and 42% by machines. 

Advanced algorithms will see an especially significant increase in specific tasks like information and data processing, while also taking over a percentage of tasks that are still overwhelmingly human, like decision making, communicating, and coordinating.

13. Almost 24% of jobs that are held by men are at high risk of automation, compared to 17% held by women.

(Brookings Institution)

When it comes to the percentage of jobs at risk of automation, men face tougher odds. That’s because they are overrepresented in some of the most high-risk occupations. For example, men represent 70% of production jobs and more than 80% of transport workers. 

In areas like construction and installation these numbers go well above 90%, indicating that in the long term men will be facing at least a slightly bigger issue with automation. Women are guarded by the fact that they represent 70% of the labor force in relatively safe occupations like education and health care, which are among the low-risk jobs in the coming decades.

14. The youngest workers are at the highest risk of being displaced due to automation.

(Brookings Institution)

Job loss due to automation statistics from 2019 indicate that the workers aged 16 to 24 are at a 49% average automation exposure, putting them ahead of their older counterparts. Workers aged 25-54 have a 40% task automation potential, which is about the same percentage that workers age 55-64 face.

What’s making the youngest workers so disproportionately affected is that they are overrepresented in highly repetitive jobs like food service and preparation. To put it in perspective: People aged 16 to 24 are 9% of the overall workforce in America, but they represent 29% of all workers in the food preparation and service industry.

15. About 33% of new jobs created in the United States are for occupations that did not exist or barely existed 25 years ago.

(McKinsey & Co.)

Historical data on jobs replaced by automation has shown that innovation doesn’t necessarily impact productivity and jobs negatively. In fact, most years since 1929 have seen gains in productivity and employment. What troubles economists is the fact that modern automation can prove to be substantially different from historical technological disruptions, so different that 48% believe that new technologies will displace more jobs than they create by 2025.

16. By the year 2022, more than 54% of workers will require significant re-skilling or upskilling.

(World Economic Forum)

Technological disruptions will not be limited to automation replacing jobs that are currently performed by humans. Most of the remaining workers will need significant training to stay productive and employable in the new world. Of 54% of workers that will need their skills upgraded or relearned, some 35% are expected to require 6 months of training. Nine percent of workers will require training that lasts 6 to 12 months, and 10% will require more than a year of training.

17. Robots could displace 20 million manufacturing jobs by 2030.

(Oxford Economics)

Job loss due to automation statistics from 2019 demonstrate that each industrial robot is on average replacing 1.6 human workers, meaning that the number of displaced workers could reach tens of millions in the coming decade. Data also suggests that low-income regions of the world are going to feel the impact of automation in manufacturing much more than average and high-income areas.

18. In 2018, sales of medical robots increased by 48% compared to the year before.

(Oxford Economics)

Population data indicates that we are living in a civilization that’s increasingly growing older. In fact, it is estimated that by the year 2050, the percentage of 60-year olds will go from 12% to 22%. Robots taking over jobs in the medical field will alleviate some of the issues that plague an aging population. Robots are expected to take over some of the tasks in hospitals, clinics, and assisted living homes, and sales are already increasing year over year. By the end of 2018, the total sales of medical robots amounted to $1.9 billion.

19. It is estimated that automation can accelerate the productivity of the global economy by 1.4% of global GDP annually.

(McKinsey & Co.)

Jobs lost to automation statistics from 2017 show that automation is a powerful tool that countries can use to increase their overall productivity, but only if the displaced human workers re-enter the workforce. It is believed that automation alone will not be enough to sustain long-term economic growth. 

Sailing Into The Brave New World

There is no doubt that automation is a powerful force for change and that it is already reshaping the world. Each technological leap has brought huge disruptions to the way the economy works and the types of jobs that people do. And the coming revolution promises to be bigger and more disruptive than any that came before.

The age of robotics and artificial intelligence could bring a catastrophic crisis due to automation job loss fallout, but it also presents an incredible opportunity to create a better life for everyone.

The worker of the future will increasingly be required to have knowledge in areas like programming and design as our place in the workforce moves from manual labor into positions that require more critical thinking and planning. 

Job loss to automation statistics we collected show that our competitive nature will play a big part in the fusion of machines and humans. A vast majority of people already admit that they would willingly use technology to improve their brains and bodies just to keep the edge with the competition, and that number is sure to increase as we move forward.

All of this means that by 2050 our world is likely to look much different. We get to decide how human workers will fit into that world, and it is imperative that we choose wisely.

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