Globalization, in the guise of off-shoring and outsourcing, has led to dramatic changes in the makeup of the labor market in recent years, and will continue to do so for years to come. But, there’s a new player in town that is going to have as big or even a bigger impact on the global labor force—and that is computerization/automation and the gradual replacement of human workers by machines.
This is not the stuff of Matrix or the Terminator; we are not talking extermination, but just the replacement of every day work activities, once performed by humans, by machines. Jobs that exist today, which you might be doing right now, or hiring for now, might not be around tomorrow or perhaps in 10/20 years time. A study from the Oxford Martin School suggests that 47% of US jobs are at risk of being computerized (replaced by robots) to a greater or lesser extent over the next 2 decades.
So, the question for candidates and recruiters is will your job or the jobs you recruit for be around in 10 years time? To help answer, below I have outlined five popular careers that won’t be around or that may be vastly diminished in the next decade:
1. Data Entry. This is a career path that workers may need to start parachuting out of in the next 10 years as the Oxford Martin study suggests a 99 percent chance of computerization. Admittedly, DOL data shows that general office clerk jobs are projected to grow at 6 percent over the next 10 years, but this is lower than the average rate of growth and not really a ringing endorsement. Workopolis has observed a definite decline in data entry jobs. And with nearly 3 million people employed in office admin, you may want to steer well clear of the fallout in this sector in 10 years time, by moving into employment elsewhere long before that.
2. Postal Workers. The future for postal workers, seasonal postal workers and staffing agencies specializing in postal worker placements is unfortunately going to be difficult. Time has been called on this area of work with the DOL forecasting a 28 percent decline in jobs (that is 139,000 jobs) between 2012-22. The Oxford Martin study shows a 90 percent chance that postal worker jobs will be automated in the next 10 to 20 years; so, the 20 year forecast is bleak. Workopolis also saw a decline in courier jobs, further underlining the difficulties in this area.
3. Taxi, Bus and Truck Driver and Industrial Machine Operators. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand on this one. Google has a fleet of self-driving Lexus cars, and it has taken them just five years to create this from scratch, which means that professional driving jobs are sadly at risk and not at all future-proof. The Oxford Martin study has bus and taxi drivers and chauffeurs as having a 90 percent chance of computerization and a range of truck driving jobs showing between an 80 to 99 percent chance of the same. This is a high-impact area as there are around 3 million delivery truck drivers alone in the U.S. and growth is slower than average. The long-term security of jobs in this area cannot be guaranteed.
4. Cashiers. This job is under threat, probably in the near future. Self-service technology exists now to pretty much automate this process, and it’s just public acceptance that’s holding it back. But, when that hurdle is overcome, the flood gates could open, which is why the Oxford Martin study has this as having a 97 percent chance of computerization and the DOL has a forecast growth rate of just 3 percent, which is much lower than average. This is also a very high-impact area with nearly 3,500,000 Americans currently employed as cashiers. Workers in this area need to be developing a plan B, and fast.
5. Security Guards. This one surprised me, really, as I thought we were a long way away from an Ed 209 style security, but the Oxford Martin Study sees security guard jobs as having an 84 percent chance of being computerized in the next 10 to 20 years. The DOL does not seem too concerned yet, as it is forecasting 12 percent growth in jobs over the next 10 years. However, this is a high-impact area with there being over 1 million security guard jobs in America; so, workers in this area should keep a watching vigil.
Now, it’s not all doom and gloom, as although many doors to jobs will be closing, many will be opening too, and if you want to know about these, please read my follow up article, “5 Careers That Will Be Booming in 10 Year’s Time.”