The future of employment looks very different from today. If you count only those jobs ranked in the top 10 most popular professions in the U.S., only counting within those the ones with a 90% or more likelihood of automation, there will be 16 million jobs lost to automation within the next few years.
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Retail sales employees represent nearly a fourth of that number: 4,442,909 workers. The “retail salesperson” job has an overall 92% risk of automation, according to WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com, which pulls data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and uses a report called “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?”
Does it seem unlikely that there will be robots taking jobs away from retail workers anytime soon? Well, Lowe’s has already introduced the LoweBot, Amazon has created their almost completely person-free Amazon Go stores, and robotics company SoftBank has nearly perfected Pepper, the world’s first robot able to recognize basic human emotions. Retail, which had been called a dying industry anyway, may soon not be able to provide jobs to a massive swath of the workforce.
That means that the single most-held job title in the United States is about to be rapidly replaced.
The next most popular and often-held jobs in the United States are no less likely to be automated, with food prep and serving workers having a likelihood of replacement of 92% and cashiers having a likelihood of 97%. Replacing cashiers might happen sooner than you think: Walmart’s “Scan & Go” technology and Kroger’s “Scan, Bag, Go” platform have already pushed the envelope for replacing workers with tech altogether. We already see self-checkout kiosks at numerous grocery stores, and management is continuously pushing customers to use them.
Asking “Will my job be replaced by a robot?” may make one think of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey or the bots from Terminator. But after the first shock, most people reason that this has happened many times before. After all, one doesn’t see shoe-shiners or ice deliverers anymore, right? There’s no reason to be afraid, supposedly.
The problem is that the jobs most likely to be automated are also some of the most popular jobs in the U.S., held by some of the poorest Americans. Massive amounts of workers will need retraining at a pace faster than ever before, and extreme poverty is likely for certain groups assuming that no safety net is created.
If you count those jobs within the top 50 most popular professions with a likelihood of automation of more than 90%, 27 billion workers will be affected. That’s nearly 8% of the U.S. population. There will be $372 million in lost wages every working hour and $2.976 billion in lost wages every day (assuming an 8-hour work day).
Expand your estimate to those jobs within the top 50 with a job automation risk of 75% or more and 36 million workers will be affected, or 11% of the U.S. population. That would lead to $4 billion in lost wages daily, assuming an 8-hour work day. That estimate would include jobs such as heavy trucking, which only has a score of 79%, but many companies have already begun work on self-driving trucking technology. Truck drivers are understandably concerned at the estimates that they may lose their jobs within the next 25 years, since these are some of the better-paying jobs one can get without a college education.
The loss of jobs due to technology will be astronomical considering that the jobs most likely to be replaced by technology may affect Americans who have already been hit the hardest by economic hardship. Education is a huge gateway and gatekeeper, but many young people are concerned about the financial risks of student loans. And frequently, seemingly robot-proof jobs, such as journalism jobs, are subject to slowly improving artificial intelligence as well. If we’re looking for jobs that can’t be automated, there are teaching, nursing, therapy, and self-care types of jobs, but there won’t be many of them if people can’t afford these services in the first place!
It’s not a matter of replacement being the problem but the pace of replacement. This is why so many people who see an intensely automated future are also pushing for a universal basic income and cash handouts. But it’s hard to predict how fast these changes will happen or how much aid will actually be necessary.
“Will a Robot Take My Job?”
If you’re asking, “Will my job be automated?” the answer is likely “yes,” but it may be a matter of years or decades. Check out our chart to see the top 50 most popular jobs and their risk of automation. If you don’t see yours there, check out WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com or ReplacedByRobot.info. Of course, it’s impossible to predict the future, but these metrics may help you glean some idea of how likely your job is to be automated within the next few years.
Will a robot take your job? Yes, probably, eventually: On a long enough timeline, your job will be one of the jobs lost to technology. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start working toward learning a new skill that AI can’t yet replicate, making a new plan for the future, or finding a couple of different side gigs that might sustain you better than one full-time job.
Think of it this way: We have already replaced 90% of the jobs human beings have done in the past, from farming to cobbling. Technology replacing jobs isn’t exactly new. Keeping up is just a matter of foresight and ingenuity!