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This paper discusses the role of the changing demand of the workforce posed by the automation and changing technology. This paper looks into the details of various industrial revolutions and how they have affected the patterns of working and have made employees redundant because of the use of technology? This is the main question this paper quests for. There is nothing permanent except change, and this can be seen in the technology also. With the passage of time, technology changes and poses new challenges on the workforce and people to adapt to it. This paper discusses the various aspects of automation and their impact on the workforce by utilizing past and present research. The topic raised in this paper is a recursive topic and debate that has been carried out from time to time and a lot of discussion has been made on the past on the role of automation with the risk of eliminating human role in the workplace.
Industrialization and Mechanical Revolution
The industrial revolution in the 18th century changed the way of working. Machines were invented that were faster than humans and they were more accurate and precise. Machines replaced several jobs that were done by humans. The industrial revolutions have always changed the way people worked. The present resolution being faced is technological innovation and comprise automation and artificial intelligence which is likely to change the structure of work, and it will affect employment as well (Braun, Zweck, & Holtmannspötter, 2016).
With the advent of computers, many jobs that were done manually by several persons could be done by a single person, and this resulted in a decrease in jobs and unemployment to many people (Braun et al., 2016). It poses a question, whether the technology emergence is feasible for humans? It can be argued that the technology brings advantage to the whole human race, whereas few people suffer from the ill effects brought that is unemployment and removal of jobs that were done previously manually (Braun et al., 2016).
In the 21st century, there are signs of changes in the learning and working environment that have serious global social consequences similar to the industrial revolution. It is because computers have assisted the people and have reduced the workload in the present working environment. A reduction in the workload means that fewer people have to do jobs as compared to the past where more people did the same jobs, and because of computerization, manual jobs have become redundant. The computer power and technology is increasing exponentially, and intelligent algorithms are increasingly taking control. As a result, decisions are not being made by the people in many occupations. Instead, the decision alternatives are provided by the software and not by the people (Braun et al., 2016).
It will affect the workforce as the role of the workforce in providing, collecting, and analyzing information for decision-making purposes has been reduced, and this will reduce many jobs in the managerial posts that were previously related to assisting decision making. Microelectronics are developing at an exponential speed which has far-reaching social consequences for vocational fields with the use of information and communication technologies (Braun et al., 2016).
The occupational shifts which have occurred because automation has led to an increase in the service sector activity and has contributed a significant role in knowledge management and work (Braun et al., 2016). Consequently, the working population is declining and technological innovations will affect the workplace design and change the age-structure of the workforce. It is presumed that the increase in the use of technology will make a significant proportion of manual workers redundant, but it will also benefit industries, and it will act as a catalyst for consumer markets. On the other hand, there will be an increased demand for workers who are skilled in developing, running and maintaining algorithms (Braun et al., 2016).
The jobs will be created, but they will require different skills which will be more advanced than previous skill sets. Therefore, the people in the technology industry will have to upgrade their digital and computer skills to keep with the pace of time as they have become a necessary part of the modern working structure. In this way, more intelligent people will take the place of less intelligent people (Braun et al., 2016). It would mean that the future will be cruel for average skilled individuals, and only highly talented and experienced people will get the highest paying jobs and the divide and inequality between the working class will increase. It could be explained in the same manner as capitalism as people with high capital will become rich, whereas people with low capital will become poorer.
The same phenomenon is to happen in the automation and artificial intelligence industry that will affect the whole industry of work. In this way, only highly talented and genius people will have higher roles, the managerial layers will be cut down and there will be either executives or clerical staff, as the organizations will lose their managerial tiers and layers because the job of people will become redundant and they will be no more required by the industry hence creating a huge divide between the workforce and lead to inequality (Braun et al., 2016).
Historical Review of Technological Revolutions
The research shows that the mechanization has created far more jobs than without it and there is no evidence that the automation will cause widespread unemployment, automation means performing work of higher order which is more creative, intellectual and idealistic (Miller, 1964). The history of two hundred years where science and technology rapidly developed accelerated industrialization that created jobs by providing new opportunities to satisfy market demands. The automation will serve humans by accelerating the satisfaction of their needs, rather than disemploying them (Miller, 1964).
Historians regard that the transformation started from the invention of Watt’s steam engine, and regardless of the precise date, it would appear safe to presume that it was the earliest use of capital goods acted as labor saving and labor serving device. When the industrial revolution took place in the US, it was common to find the situation where men were displaced froth their skills or jobs or both, and the mechanical revolution was the reason that the US through capital employment became the industrial giant and achieved very high standards of living (Miller, 1964). Therefore, it can be said that automation is not a serious economic problem despite the instabilities created by the mechanization and the conditions existed which allow the solutions of the problems with relatively minor adjustments.
It can be presumed that automation creates jobs in the long run when the two conditions exist: when production costs are high preventing mass scale of productions due to high price; and when the machine technology is geared fundamentally to an entirely new industry that has a virgin market relatively untapped (Miller, 1964). The example of this is the steel industry, the production was minimal because of high costs, and it was unable to produce large quantities because of technology and lack of demand. However, with the advent of technology, it became possible to manufacture large quantities of steel at lower costs, and extensive use of this valuable metal was made (Miller, 1964). With this, the production reached to thousands of tons of steel that lead to increased sales and employment. As the machines developed, it leads to more and more machine technology-related employment.
Automation results in increased demand, and the productions through a mechanical process is larger and does not match the replacement rate of man by machines (Miller, 1964). Also with the development of rail and coal industries, employment was not affected because of potential growth because of reduced costs and prices, but in actual, it increased the effective demand (Miller, 1964).
Technology Transformation Recurrence
The problem of automation and employment effects is very long. About every quarter of a century, accelerating automation brings a wave of anxiety regarding the disappearance of jobs and a corresponding wave for basic income (Coyle, 2015). This has had happened in the 1960s and 1990s. However, it is correct to emphasize that the fears about the end of work have proven to be overstated.
In the 1960s and 1990s, machines did not kill the jobs but created more as the economy grew as well as new occupations were also developed (Coyle, 2015). The development of new occupations can bring anxiety to the existing workers who are engaged in some industry with the old machines, but they will find that if they improve their skills level and attain knowledge of the newly built machines and mechanism, they can earn more, the demand will be increased and there will be more economic activity that will benefit the people.
It has been observed that the US has become an industrial giant and it has experienced many episodes of transformation from the old practices to new practices. However, the employment rate has not fallen, unless because of the economic crisis (Coyle, 2015). Machines are not the reason to reduce the economic opportunities, but they increase it, as it can be seen in the case of US, where the income per capita has been rapidly increasing because of emerging technologies (Coyle, 2015).
Digital, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Revolution
The present technological revolution is a digital revolution or the revolution of automation as compared to the previous revolutions brought through the development of steel industry, rail industry, coal industry, which wiped out the earlier means of production, and generated increased and increased demand, and created a lot of economic opportunities (Miller, 1964). The researchers, who have kept the historical account on this problem, are of the view that this wave of anxiety among the workers is created after every quarter of a century. However, it creates new and more jobs than past while eliminating past jobs (Coyle, 2015). Therefore, this process of development is beneficial to humanity. The present revolution is much more machine-intensive because of the development of automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
Various empirical assessments suggest that almost half of all the jobs in the industrialized countries will be at risk of automation in the next 10 to 20 years. The revised estimates show that the overall job drop because of automation, artificial intelligence and robotics will be 9% rather than 38% because of the above-mentioned reasons (Arntz, Gregory, & Zierahn, 2017). Its prediction is also based on the past results that the technological advances in the 19th and 20th centuries did not result in job losses, although new technology brings anxiety and fear that the technology will replace jobs on a large scale in future (Arntz et al., 2017).
It has also been reasoned in the contemporary time of artificial intelligence and robotics, and the estimation asserts that up to half of the workforce will lose jobs in the next two decades and this is resulting in political demands such as robot tax and basic income tax (Krakovsky, 2018). Furthermore, artificial intelligence and robotic experts believe that book-keeping, accounting, and auditing jobs are likely to be eradicated by 98% chance in the near future, but the data shows that many workers in the highly exposed fields can make the decision which the machine struggles to make and cannot replace the human mind (Arntz et al., 2017).
Thus, these estimations are erroneous, and these do not comply with the patterns of history, and the same fears have been realized in the past, but they seemed to be untrue and not valid. The minor adjustments were required, and these were about the changing skills needs of the workforce.
Role of Educational Institutions
The educational institutions are playing an essential role in providing up to date education to students. These students are to be recruited by existing firms and businesses. They will not become redundant by providing them an up to date education, and particularly the education on emerging trends. Instead, they will make their place in the existent workplace settings (Krakovsky, 2018). The same phenomena had occurred in the past when the mechanical education was formally made the part of schooling and college system, which allowed workers to meet and serve the needs of the future demands that were posed by industrialization (Miller, 1964).
The role of the educational institutions is essential to ensure innovation as they are the main drivers of knowledge and creativity. There is also a fundamental axiom that the invention cannot be higher than the innovator, and this was deemed to be true while reviewing the historical observation of technological revolutions and transformations where workers found their place despite changing times.
The technological advances and the advent of new technologies challenges the workforce by replacing jobs and automation has done so. However, this phenomenon is observed as increased demand, and minor adjustments are required by workers to adjust and upgrade their skills to meet the demand of the future. With every industrial revolution, the change in the workforce structure occurs, and people face challenges in adopting themselves in the mainstream. The old ways of doing things are not valid, and new skill and knowledge are required by workers to meet the challenges of changing times. This paper asserts and finds that employment is not affected because of technology and jobs are not lost, but the demand is increased, and minor changes are required in the workforce.
- Arntz, M., Gregory, T., & Zierahn, U. (2017). Revisiting the risk of automation. Economics Letters, 159, 157-160.
- Braun, A., Zweck, A., & Holtmannspötter, D. (2016). The ambiguity of intelligent algorithms: Job killer or supporting assistant. European Journal of Futures Research, 4(1), https://doi.org/10.1007/s40309-016-0091-3.
- Coyle, D. (2015). An answer to the wrong question. Boston Review: Forum 2, 61-65.
- Krakovsky, M. (2018). The new jobs. Society, 61(1), 21-23.
- Miller, J. A. (1964). Automation, job creation and unemployment. Academy of Management Journal, 7(4), 300-307.
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