Which Careers are at Highest Risk of Elimination due to Automation?
You are probably reading this article on your smartphone or computer. You are enjoying the benefits that come with technology, but have you ever considered what rapidly advancing technology can mean for your future career prospects?
The downside to all this wonderful convenience is that today’s workplace may be a vastly different picture in five years, ten years, twenty years. A 2018 Royal Bank of Canada study predicts that over 50% of all Canadian jobs will see some degree of automation. The best case scenario is that automation complements human workers. The worst case scenario is that human workers are completely replaced by robots, machines, or artificial intelligence software. The following are examples of careers that are at highest risk of the latter:
You have probably already seen self-checkout counters in major businesses, such as IKEA, Sobey’s, and Shoppers Drug Mart. You have probably already used them too. For now, cashiers are still needed, especially in smaller businesses that cannot afford the costs of installing and maintaining self-checkout machines.
Have you noticed more robo-calls compared to cold calls from a real person asking if you want your ducts cleaned? That is automation at work. According to a 2013 study out of Oxford University (The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerization? by C.B. Frey and M.A. Osborne), the job of telemarketer has the highest chance of automation in the coming years. Bad news for all: not only are you not likely to land a telemarketer job, you will likely be on the receiving end of more robo-calls to boot.
Cashiers and telemarketers at high risk of elimination due to automation—that came as no surprise to me because I have already seen and experienced automation in both of those fields. The job of tax preparation, on the other hand, surprised me. This shows you that I had no idea tax preparation is repetitive, routine, and predictable enough to allow artificial intelligence to do it. H&R Block has already begun to use IBM’s Watson.
You may be thinking: well, my job (either current or intended) is not one of these three, I’m safe! Well, have I got news for you: that 2013 Oxford University study looked at 702 occupations and ranked them all by how likelihood of becoming automated. A website called https://willrobotstakemyjob.com will allow you to search for your job and find out if robots will take your job.
If you see your job has a high likelihood of automation, do not panic! Each decade brings its own concerns and anxieties about how robots will soon replace humans. Sixty years ago, a similar article was probably written with multiple jobs listed—and did you know, in all those years, only one prediction came true? Just one job was made permanently redundant by automation: elevator operators.