Automation will do half the jobs in less than eight years

Automation, even more than trade, will continue to shrink the number of manufacturing jobs. - Senator Ben Sasse

In a new report released by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum, automation is quickly becoming the new labor force. By 2020, the next presidential election, 42 percent of all labor will be produced by some type of machine. That only increases to 52 percent by 2023.

Compare that to a year ago, and that is an increase of 29 percent over the past 12 months. This ever-increasing speed by AI will disrupt the global economy. The chart below shows how automation has changed work-force participation between 2013-17.

According to Michael Chui of the McKinsey Global Institute, leaders continue to not prepare for this massive shift. "Mass redeployment in labor forces around the world, including reskilling/retraining (rather than mass unemployment), is one of the societal grand challenges in the next several decades."

Currently, an estimated 75 million workers could lose their jobs to automation by 2022. Granted new jobs may come available as well. Companies could create up to 133 million jobs during that same time frame. However, there is one key to those new opportunities, training. The new pipeline of careers would take a huge move toward new training programs from colleges, employers, and technical schools.

In the report, that average worker would need to train for 101 days.

"If such skills are compounded out, the economy could have a slew of new emerging occupations. But they won't emerge if we don't give people the right skills," said lead author and head of the forum's Center for New Economy and Society, Saadia Zahidi.

The other downside, two-thirds of the companies looked at said they would provide retraining only for high-skilled labor. That would leave the remaining workers on their own.

Next time you hear a politician say they are for the working man, you better make sure they follow that up with how they are planning to deal with automation. Right now the focus seems to be on trade and tariffs. That needs to change. As Senator Ben Sasse recently tweeted, "automation, even more than trade, will continue to shrink the number of manufacturing jobs. This trend is irreversible. We should tell the truth."

No. 1-4

Don't end up like the 50-something on unemployment because he can't find a job that pays him 18.50$ an hour to turn the exact same screw 700 times a day on an assembly line. Learn a skill. Become mobile. Train for the future. America can't afford to fall behind by electing obsolete men with obsolete plans. Tariffs, I mean, "Border Adjustment Taxes" (Tariffs) won't bring about the next Golden Age of America. A skilled workforce will.


I think President Trump's instincts about China are correct. I do not like his voters chanting "build the wall". Their jobs are not going away and their incomes are not stagnating because we have no wall. I do not agree with his tactics, but he has earned the chance to try them, regarding trade. This is one area where he has been consistent over many decades.

Robert Moore
Robert Moore

While I agree automation is a key driver of wealth concentration, the downsides of globalization should not be overlooked.

And no, I'm not going all Trumpster on you. A global economy is the correct one, and the one we're stuck with until the end of time.

However, the American principle of the Natural Rights of Man should be the guiding light for global trade.

What that means in practicality is that American workers should not be made to compete with slave labor.

As such, competing with democratic countries should be very open, and trade with dictatorships should be guarded, regulated, problematic, and in some cases banned.

(And oh yeah, doing this is like defusing a gigantic bomb, so be careful).


I'm going to agree with the author and offer a few uneasy points that are going to be hard for conservatives, especially the fiscal ones like myself.

First thing is automation is going to hit the, less than college, workforce the hardest. The changes to the transportation industry alone are going to be both fast and dramatic. Self driving vehicles are closer than most people realize.

Unlike previous changes that displaced worker, I have doubts that the traditional solutions will hold. That is re-training. The reason is re-training assumes there will be jobs available, that pay a decent wage, for the skills the workers can easily acquire. The HR jobs may be, but the software and engineering jobs take a specific mindset that you don't learn effectively late in life.

That leads to the next problem. Automation is a concentrator of wealth. The people that own, build, or design the machines will continue to do well. They will in effect get all the wealth that used to be distributed between themselves and the workers that did the work.

So we need something productive for these people to do, that will pay enough to provide a living wage, and will provide enough satisfaction that they feel like productive members of society. Right now I don't know what that is. If we don't find it, the socialists will, and that will be bad for everyone.

I've though about shorter work weeks, requiring some percentage of corp incomes to go to workers. But I don't know how to make it work. We need to be brainstorming the problem. Ignoring it won't solve it and banning automation as some have proposed will just make the country noncompetitive.