As the advance technology creates unemployment, more people are working at home. There are still rooms for optimism, even when robots are taking away jobs at an unprecedented speed if one is prepared enough and realize the inevitable that home is the only place of refuge, this time around.
The term “technological unemployment” is coined to denote unemployment caused by technological change. Your career and lifestyles as a former factory worker or as a professional may have been altered or disrupted by the sudden invasion of robots that cause technological unemployment. You may be a retired, unemployed or forced to retire because of digital disruption or stay at home due to old age or health issue. Nevertheless, there is a good news for you.
The End of Human Era?
There is a widespread anxiety caused by automation and jobs offshored to low-wage countries that will never come back home. As ever-greater numbers of workers, skilled or highly skilled, are displaced by machines, the forces that will shape our lifestyles and working environment and the potential upheaval is so obvious.
However, no amount of pessimism will solve the problem as these new trends seem likely to continue. What is the future of work? What kind of work will humans do now and in the future? Are we witnessing the end of Human Era and the beginning of Robot-Era? This article will briefly touch the disadvantages and benefits of these new trends and the prospects of the future of work.
News headlines in the last 6 years revealed that the American corporate profits, the productivity, and the stock market are all going upward. But wages have remained stagnant. The only constant news has been about jobs transferred to overseas or automated: This trend has become a sensitive political issue in the high technology nations. As the public debate rages about the future of work, and whether there will be enough jobs for everyone, the life of the American laborer for the last 6 years have been pretty much terrible. But the phenomena is global – not just confined to the United States.
The Invasion of Robots
A few days ago I read the news about Taiwan’s Foxconn, a major supplier of Apple and Samsung, replacing “60,000 factory workers with robots”.
In China, one factory has recently “reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots”, according to South China Morning Post. The Post added that “more companies are likely to follow suit” as China is investing heavily in a robot workforce and aiming to replace thousands of workers.
According to the Economists, 35% of jobs in Britain are at risk over the next 20 years due to rapid automation taking place. A reliable research study in 2013 concluded that 47% of American workers are at high risk of losing their job due to automation. Another such study predicted 49% of the workforce in Japan is likely to be replaced by robots.
In response to a minimum-wage increase to $15 an hour, McDonald is considering robot workers.
It’s Chief Executive told the press that he would rather buy a more efficient robotic arm that cost $35,000, instead of paying $15/hr for someone to bag French fries.
Massive unemployment was already forecasted following factory automation that started in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Forecasters at that time even predicted that full-time employment would no longer exist, or even desirable, in the coming future. President John F. Kennedy at that time declared that the major challenge of the 1960s was to “maintain full employment at a time when automation is replacing men”.
According to a memo sent to President Lyndon Johnson by a group of Nobel laureates mentioned the danger of revolution triggered by “the combination of the computer and the automated self-regulating machine”.
The advent of personal computers in the 1980s further provoked nervous complaints about potential job losses. Contrary to this kind of fear, automation actually created more jobs in the past. As technology helps particular task to be done faster and cheaper, those remaining jobs that have not been automated demanded more human workers.
For example, during the Industrial Revolution, as more and more tasks in the weaving industries were automated, workers were still needed to focus on operating a machine and tending multiple machines to keep them running smoothly. This resulted in explosive output. In America during the 19th century, the automation of weaving industry lead to the cheaper production cost of cloth that consequently increased demand for it, which in turn quadrupled the numbers of weavers between 1830 and 1900. Technology actually changed the skills required for the weaver’s job, rather than replacing them altogether.
Based on this example, among many, the notion that automation takes away jobs and causes technological unemployment may not have always been right.
But that was then.
The Advent of Information Age
Enter the information age and things are changing rapidly and dramatically.
With the advent of the new information economy at the 20th century’s wane, new and completely different set of skills are in high demand. Adding to the already complicated working environment, the new skill changes ever more rapidly as we enter deeper into the 21st century.
Looking back into the past, we come to realize that the very word “unemployment” is a typical, obsolete industrial era concept when the mass economy, mass production, and mass employment were the order of the day and the possibility of mass unemployment was not even remotely imagined.
While the old era industrial jobs are disappearing at an unprecedented speed, new openings occur for the new information economy. For many, the word unemployment becomes virtually the same as forced retirement as those workers of the old era are not prepared to take over the new jobs opening up in the information economy. However, for the new generations or digital natives, the ever developing technology means new opportunities opening up new doors.
The causes of unemployment we are seeing now are diverse and are inherently different from the causes we have seen in the past. The high technology countries are facing explosive social and political crisis as many low-tech (and also high-tech) industries are transferred to Thailand, Mexico, China or elsewhere, where there are cheap and qualified labor forces.
This further reinforces the already chaotic situation caused by factory automation, creating even more unemployed workers in the developed countries. On the other hand, the new information economy doesn’t need thousands of workers doing uniform, standardized, repetitive routine work. While many of today’s productions are replaced by highly sophisticated robots, the new advanced sector of the economy needs innovative, resourceful, and even individualistic workforce that is future-oriented.
Those industries that have left the shore of the United States and Europe are unlikely to come back home even with the roaring rhetoric of some leading figures of the power that be or those who are fiercely against the new trend of globalization – transferring industries and jobs oversea. The trend, in actual sense, is irreversible.
Countries in the far East, India or Mexico may be profiting from the transfer of technology and jobs from the West but the ultimate beneficiaries, no doubt, are those technologically advanced countries in the first place. Because the process is not just merely a transfer of jobs oversea, but it is rather an outsourcing of jobs to low-wage emerging economies – saving the outsourcing countries millions or even billions of dollars in total in the long run. And these advanced countries could better focus on high-end productions and enhance the economic growth even more effectively. It is, indeed, a win-win process, notwithstanding the rampant unemployment it has created.
The Need for Training and Retraining
While governments of high-tech countries are burdened with welfare handouts, there are demands for training and retraining to enable laid-out workers and professionals to cope with the changes. In place of ever waning manufacturing jobs and consequent technological unemployment, millions of white collar and service jobs are opening up. The nature of work itself has changed.
For many, who are permanently kicked out of the workplaces, there arise new opportunities for earning a living from home as affiliate marketers – promoting others’ products online. There are but thousands of ways to earn money online and affiliate marketing is just one such method. Even then proper training and retraining are needed and there are many online educational programs out there on the Internet – vying to fill in this demand.
We need to recognize the distinctive reasons of changes that have been taking place across the globe – not in some isolated regions of the world – but on a global scale. It is not merely the collapse of the old industrial era economy but rather a radical reorganization of a new kind of knowledge-based or information economy. What we are witnessing and experiencing is the restructuring of the new information economy. The meanings of the very words like “work” or “unemployment” and even “employment” need to be redefined.
“Work” under the information economy could no longer be defined in terms of Charlie Chaplin’s satirical movie “Modern Times”. Factories using machines and human muscles simultaneously as their energy sources are things of the miserably dehumanizing past.
Today, there are many new jobs or professions emerging along with the technological advancement like PET scan technicians in the hospitals, resource recyclers, speech recognition and unit repairers, ocean miners, material designers, solar photovoltaic panel installers, undersea archeologists, fiber optics line persons, space lab architects, direct broadcast satellite programmers, video trainers, teleconference consultants etc., to name but a few. All these are new professions unheard of in the past. Even then, some of these new jobs are at risk of being replaced with robots or artificial intelligence.
Apart from that many senior citizens and retirees or “technological unemployed” are increasingly working independently and earning from home through generating and sharing their knowledge and information via the Internet.
It is important to recognize that routine jobs and jobs that need repetitive human maneuvering are outmoded in the high technology nations. Many of these jobs could be done faster, better and even cheaper by today’s computers. Robots can take over dangerous jobs. Moreover, computers and robots have nothing to do with the unions – no noise, no complaint, no demonstration against “exploitation”, wage cuts, differed benefits or excessive overtime work, even as they are made to work around the clock 24/7!
As the high technology – Artificial Intelligence – kicks the workers and managers out of the factory and office floors and renders them to become home-staying unemployed or forced-to-retire stay at homes, the same technology is helping them to make their homecoming more accommodating.
Many former workers and professionals are increasingly working independently from the comfort of their homes to offer their services via digital platforms like Upwork, Uber, and Etsy.
These new online entrepreneurs are now challenging the 9-to-5 job that dates back to the Industrial Revolution. The conventional ideas about how and where work is done need a serious scrutiny, as increasingly more works are independently done at home without any kind of formal working hour.
The traditionally centralized hierarchical management structure of the factory has collapsed and replaced by independent individuals working from home.
For many, who have experiences in various fields of expertise there are monumental opportunities to earn money from the comfort of home. The old concept of “work” should be discarded. A new life could be rebuilt from home thanks to the advanced communication technology – the Internet.
To survive as a stay-at-home retiree or unemployed, you only need the right knowledge on how you can make money on the Internet. There are thousands of online training and knowledge-sharing platforms out there on the Internet and many of them are bogus platforms to take advantage of the economic crisis only to line their own pockets instead of helping you. There are but a few honest platforms helping people transform their life at home.
Wealthy Affiliate University is one such online training platform, that stands out among many other platforms, honestly helping thousands of stay-at-homes, either seniors, retirees, unemployed or those “forced to retire” earn decent money from home as affiliate marketers. It is the best affiliate training platform for those who need training and retraining to cope with the current changes.
Sharing information and knowledge or experiences accumulated during ones younger years and helping people solve their problems via blog and websites are the key to surviving online.
Homecoming – either as a retiree or as one forced to retire due to digital disruption or health issue – is an unavoidable new phenomenon of the 21st century and it should not necessarily be an unpleasant experience with the present of the best training or retraining platform like Wealthy Affiliate University.
If you have any interesting (good or bad) experiences with changes occurring due to digital disruption or any other reason, feel free to share your opinions or experiences with us in the comment box below.
If you have any question, we will be more than happy to discuss with you.
- “Wealthy Affiliate Review” by Kipp Kho Lian (Online entrepreneur)
- “Humans Need Not Apply” by Jerry Kaplan. He predicts upheaval in the labor market.
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