Breathe Humans, Robots Won't Take Up All Our Jobs!

by Sohini Bagchi    Aug 28, 2015


While most reports highlight the way robots of the future will eat up human jobs and that the future of employment is bleak, a recent analysis by a Wired article, The Future of Jobs, 2025: Working Side-By-Side With Robots, stands out. The report author J. P. Gownder, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research assures that robots will not take all the jobs.

He forecasts that 16% of jobs will disappear due to automation technologies between now and 2025, but that jobs equivalent to 9% of today’s jobs will be created. Physical robots require repair and maintenance professionals — one of several job categories that will grow up around a more automated world. That’s a net loss of 7%, far fewer than most forecasts, though still a significant job loss number.

Filling up unfilled posts

Business leaders in the US too have identified robotics as a major source of jobs, with many openings currently unfilled. In a poll of 200 senior corporate executives on the industrial sectors they thought would create the most jobs for our nation’s youth during the rest of the decade, 81% mentioned robotics as a top area. The poll was conducted for the National Robotics Education Foundation (NREF) by Information Strategies.

Smart robots are built to function autonomously without the need for human interference. These robots are increasing being applied in several areas such as healthcare, automotive industries, process industries and manufacturing industries among others.

Today, there are an estimated 150+ thousand unfilled positions in robotics related workplaces in the U.S. alone, according to industry surveys. These positions often pay higher than average salaries for even the most basic service openings, according to another survey by ISI for NREF.

By 2020, job openings are expected to grow to almost 500 thousand positions. In their comments, executives polled said all of these areas and many more will require individuals who can design, build, program, operate and maintain these machines.

Thomas Atwood, NREF’s Executive Director, commissioned the study after taking initial soundings and speaking to industry executives. “These openings are not limited to big companies. The industry is spawning smaller entities as well. Most jobs in America are generated by small companies and they are in the forefront of this revolution,” he said.

Some challenges

Needless to say, the biggest conflicts in the robotics revolution would be that robots can malfunction if a wrong algorithm is embedded in them. This can have a negative impact and can even pose harm to their surrounding environment.

This is a major factor hindering the growth in the market, believe experts. Moreover, the development of smart robots involves high expenditure in research and development. Training and development and the costs associated with it is often turn out to be an issue. “How do we awaken interest and train students to meet these evolving worker needs and opportunities?” study respondents say.

Job transformation

Robots coming into the limelight would suggest a major job transformation in the industry, as analysts predict, by 2019, 25% of all job tasks will be offloaded to software robots, physical robots, or customer self-service automation. Gownder states, “For most workers, robotic colleagues will change the way we approach our daily jobs, requiring new methods of job training, management, financial reporting systems, and the like.”

According to other studies, the robotics industry is in a very expansive mode today, showing no signs of deceleration. Atwood believes, the ongoing technological improvement in robotics is expected to lower the price of smart robotics and ensure commercial production of smart robots in future in a few years from now, the signs are already obvious.