Robots won't steal our jobs!

Robots won't steal our jobs!

There is a growing anxiety about the future of the labor market. One of the bigest fears about automation is: robots will steal our jobs! These fears have been fueled by the press around the world, which in recent years has been full of headlines such as: "Intelligent robots could soon steal your job" (CNN), "White-collar robots are coming for your job" (Wall Street Journal), “Yes, the Robots Are Coming: Jobs in the Age of People and Machines” (Wired), “Are the Robots Coming for Your Job? Yes, at some point” (New York Times) and The New Yorker went even further and made a cover "Welcoming our New Robot Overlords". This anxiety has been brought back to the present by Elon Musk, who launched the humanoid robot Optimus, expressing his intention to use robots in Tesla's factories, after which to expand their area of ​​use to domestic applications. With this event, Pandora's box was reopened!

We agree that the changes we are experiencing right now are truly seismic, technological development and the labor market are evolving at an alert ritm. However, we believe that creating panic among people is not the right approach. The assumption that humans could lose control of their lives to robots would require society to sit back and passively watch how technologies are designed and implemented. Robots and automation are here to stay and thanks to the efficiency of all work processes they come with, will become a must in every field. Rather, we believe the question society should be asking is: "How can we direct the development of future technologies so that robots complement rather than replace us?".

People have been through such panic states since the beginning of the first industrial revolution, and time has always shown that in the long and even medium run, the number of jobs has increased. If we look back in history we see that humanity has gone through various stages of development:

  • It was assumed that the invention of the steam engine was supposed to reduce the number of workers in manufacturing. Instead, their numbers have increased. After steam engines replaced water wheels as the power source in manufacturing in the 1800s, the sector expanded sevenfold, from 1.2 million jobs in 1830 to 8.3 million by 1910.
  • In the early 1900s, more than half of the existing workforce was involved in agriculture, at the time a physically demanding and labor-intensive industry. Today, thanks to mechanization and the use of sophisticated data analytics to manage crop exploitation and livestock raising, less than 2% are in agriculture, but their output is significantly higher.
  • Similarly, closer to the present day, many feared that the advent of the ATM in the early 1970s would replace bank tellers. However, even though ATMs are everywhere, today there are more bank employees performing a wider variety of tasks.

Likewise now in the era of digitization people will find new jobs. The abundance created by labor-saving innovations will drive demand; new industries will grow, expand, and find new things to do for workers who initially lost their jobs.

Another solid argument is the fact that Japan and Germany, which are the most automated countries in the world, have the lowest unemployment rate.

McKinsey & Company, a business consulting company with the most influential enterprises and institutions in the world's client portfolio, made an elaborate study from which it emerged that probably less than 5% of current occupations will disappear completely in the next decade, and the tasks currently performed by people on the job will be rearranged to make the most efficient use of new technologies. Job design specialists call them "work systems." One of the key findings of the McKinsey study was that about one-third of the tasks performed in 60% of today's workplaces are likely to be eliminated or significantly changed by future technologies. The vast majority of our jobs will still be there, but what we do every day will change drastically. The changes will be in the way people work. It's about tasks, not jobs! Until now robotics and other digital technologies have had the greatest effects on routine tasks, such as spell checking, and those that are dangerous, difficult or performed in extreme conditions, such as to for example, lifting very heavy objects on an assembly line. Technological advances and machine learning will significantly expand the range of tasks and occupations performed by humans.

Also, a study conducted in 2016 by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) together with those from the Financial Times shows that a human-robot collaboration is 85% more efficient than the work done only by humans or only by robots.

        Each example shown demonstrates that the introduction of new technologies does more than eliminate jobs. If implementation is managed well, it can change the way work is done. It can increase both productivity and the level of service provided by making the tasks that people perform easier.

Of course, the major changes brought about automation and robotization also imply behavioral changes, both on the part of companies and on the part of people.

Companies must invest in training employees so that they are prepared to contribute to the use and adaptation of technological changes in order to take full advantage of the benefits of new technologies.

The good thing about this is that it gives employees what sociologists call "hybrid" skills: a combination of technical knowledge of new technology with communication and problem-solving skills.

Companies whose employees have these skills will get the greatest return on their technology investments. It is no surprise that these hybrid skills are now in high demand and command very good salaries in the market.

Even if technology has advanced so much, taking society to heights of progress it has never seen before, still the most important resource remains the human resource. People continue to be important to companies, and companies that, in addition to technology, also invest in training and strengthening teams manage to obtain the greatest returns from technology.

 If you have questions about robots or want to initiate an automation process in your company, do not hesitate to contact our specialists.