New technologies make humans redundant, and robots will take everyone’s jobs—these are the types of headlines that are often generated around the impact of new technologies on jobs.
The truth is more nuanced. A historical perspective suggests that when new and transformational technologies are introduced, they filter through the economy with mixed effect. While new technologies can displace some jobs, they also have the potential to create many new jobs.
The clear, established trend sees humans transitioning out of jobs that require hard or repetitive manual labor—which can often be performed more efficiently by machines—and into positions of creative problem-solving, such as leadership analysis and decision-making.
A classic example of a shifting vertical is agriculture, a sector that employs 4.2 percent of the workforce within countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and as little as 2.8 percent in Europe and North America. Half of these positions or fewer are based in Europe and North America. A century ago, the agriculture sector employed closer to 40 percent of the American workforce, but machines have now replaced dangerous, physical labor to the point where modern tractors need only be instructed to cultivate a particular field, and then robotics and GPS will do the rest. This leaves farmers with additional time to be more strategic in their planning and operations.
New technologies make new jobs
Sectors of work today are highly varied; consequently, so are the places where autonomous tech like robotics and artificial intelligence will likely be implemented. John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, said “Major new technologies, from steam engines to computers, displace some existing jobs but also generate large productivity gains. This reduces prices and increases real income and spending levels, which in turn, creates demand for additional workers. From our study, the analysis suggests the same will be true of AI, robots, and related technologies, but the distribution of jobs across sectors will shift considerably in the process.”
The study explains that this analysis is borne out of the historical experience that technological change is a key driver of economic growth. It is now broadly accepted that the first industrial revolution eventually led to improving standards of living in society, for the working class in particular.
Recent automation does not seem to have led to an overall decline in employment levels. In fact, the net impact of new technologies on employment can be strongly positive. Employment losses in manufacturing have largely been compensated by increasing employment in services, leading to stable or growing overall employment levels.
Growing productivity can bring greater demand for labor, the study concludes. And should the adoption of AI lead to automation, economic modeling suggests that this demand will, to an extent, countervail potential job losses.
Alongside these findings, The World Economic Forum’s recent Future of Jobs Report reveals that 38 percent of businesses surveyed expect to extend their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles, where tasks such as decision making, reasoning, and communication will be the primary focus, while more than a quarter expect automation to lead to the creation of new roles in their enterprise. The report also shows that businesses plan to expand their use of contractors doing task-specialized work, with many respondents highlighting their intention to engage workers in a more flexible manner, utilizing remote staffing beyond physical offices and decentralization of operations.
Diversity upskilling will increase
Many of these new jobs will require a human element that machines will never be able to replicate. A comprehensive report prepared for the Royal Society and the British Academy by Frontier Economics outlined areas AI would foster job creation and expansion: from “trainers” (performing tasks useful to train AI systems) and “explainers” (interpreting the outputs generated by AI systems) to “sustainers” (monitoring the work of AI systems to prevent and mitigate any unintended consequences). They also predicted growth in a number of existing occupations across the board, including food preparation, hospitality, and the creative industries, alongside construction, sports and fitness occupations, and the electrical and electronic trades.
An additional positive result from a reduced need for physical labor is a gradual fall in gender stereotyping in the workforce. As the World Bank points out, women currently represent only 39 percent of the global workforce.
While many sectors are still gender unbalanced, the engineering industry is making positive efforts to recruit more women. BAE Systems, for example, has stated that “In 2017, 27 percent of our apprentices and 33 percent of graduates were female. This represents the highest proportion of females in both our early career programs since we began recording the gender of our graduate and apprentice recruits.”
Not only is this a healthy development for women, it also represents an opportunity to utilize previously untapped talent pools. Looking at the future of the workforce, McKinsey finds that the emphasis will be on three key skills:
- Higher cognitive, such as creativity, and complex information processing and interpretation
- Social and emotional, such as entrepreneurship and initiative taking, and leadership and management
- Technological, such as advanced IT skills and programming, as well as basic digital skills
The report concludes optimistically: “A well-trained workforce equipped with the skills required to adopt automation and AI technologies will ensure that our economies enjoy strengthened productivity growth and that the talents of all workers are harnessed.”
Analytics from HP DaaS can enable IT to innovate
As you can see from the wealth of research into the topic of new technology and job creation, innovative technologies can create new possibilities. Modern service-based offerings like HP Device as a Service (DaaS) that simplify how organizations source, support, and manage IT devices can play a significant role in freeing up time for innovation.
HP DaaS service plans provide a combination of hardware and services, such as insightful predictive analytics, proactive management, and services for every stage of the device lifecycle. The unique analytics technology HP TechPulse delivers actionable intelligence on multi-OS devices and applications through a simple cloud-based dashboard. The solution can also predict when batteries need replacing, determine how best to allocate devices to users, and identify which programs are slowing down CPU cycles.
These insights can help to optimize IT resources and create a more satisfied and productive workforce. HP DaaS can help your team offload day-to-day device management so IT staff can focus on supporting users and engaging in other projects to create value for your organization.