Why can't your job be automated

Why automation could also lead to more jobs

There are questions that scientists, politicians and employees - most of them particularly worried - have been asking themselves for many years: How many and above all which jobs will automation destroy in the future? And which jobs are being created?

Due to the corona pandemic, the skeptics have regained the upper hand: In order to better prevent sources of infection in the future and increase efficiency, entrepreneurs would increasingly replace jobs with robots and automation technologies, according to the forecasts. Supermarkets and shops that replace cashiers with cash registers, hotels that use cleaning robots, and machines that take over almost all work steps in industry - with Corona hardly one stone will be left unturned, and millions of jobs will not open even after the pandemic the labor market is expected to return. Could they be true?

Japan's enthusiasm for robots

Not necessarily. Because, contrary to the general fear that robots will destroy our jobs, they could just as easily lead to more work and better pay. This is the result of a recent study by scientists who looked at the development of automation in Japan from 1978 to 2017.

The country has always been known to be enthusiastic about robots: More than 250,000 industrial robots are in use there around the clock, plus thousands of humanoid entertainment robots, animal robots, social robots and surveillance robots. Can we learn from Japan's history and attitude towards machines?

Cute robots

Japan had a very special relationship with robots right from the start. Domestic production of the machines started back in the 1970s - earlier than in most other industrial nations. In contrast to the media in the West, which often portrays robots as job-stealing terminators, ready at any time to initiate the revolution from machine to human, robots often appear as cute and lovable beings in Japanese pop culture. Robot engineers and scientists in the country see technology more as a help and a supplement than a substitute for us humans.

It is an aid that is primarily intended to counteract trends such as the shrinking and aging population. If the proponents have their way, robots should be used in old people's homes and hospitals, where there is already a shortage of staff.

Technologies such as Telenoid have already been developed for this, a legless and armless robot that an employee can use to communicate with the residents. The robots are also used in restaurants, industry and rescue services. In times of pandemics, the machines should help people against loneliness and serve as talking and playmates.

More jobs

Instead of destroying jobs, the robots could almost act like magnets that keep workers in the region, the researchers write in their study. A one percent increase in the use of robots would lead to an increase in employment in the population by 0.28 percent. Every single robot that is added for every thousand workers increases employment by 2.2 percent.

At the same time, with the robots, the pay for the employees is also increasing, which the scientists attribute to the positive effects of the machines on the productivity of the employees. The higher productivity likely contributed to rising exports in machinery and industry, which in turn led to more jobs in the country, the researchers argue.

Retraining

However, it is also clear to the scientists: It cannot be entirely without job losses for certain population groups, which is why the fear of some employees about automation is well founded.

For many experts, however, the solution is not to stop automation and technology, but to cushion the social upheaval in the population with retraining, further training and new support models. And maybe in the end we could win the machine companions a little amiability and favor in this country too. (Jakob Pallinger, March 1, 2021)