A new study by Brookings Institution researchers claimed that the reshaping of the workplace by developments in robotics and artificial intelligence would exert the most pressure again on the Midwestern states in the United States which has been the hardest hit by job automation in recent decades. This region also played a pivotal role to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.
The study concluded that there would be a separation of high- skilled workers, whose jobs are less likely to be replaced because of automation, from the rest of the workforce regardless of location and result in a further divide of the fast-growing cities where skilled workers are moving and other areas, because of the proliferation of computer-driven technology and their adoption in the middle-wage jobs such as trucking, construction, and office work. The technology is also permeating into some of the lower-skilled job profiles such as food preparation and service.
However, manufacturing-heavy states like Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa, in the US could feel the pain most from job losses because of automation and technology. The support from these states was instrumental in ensuring the victory of Donald Trump at the U.S. electoral college. These states also have the largest share of jobs – about 27 per cent, that are at “high risk” of further automation in coming years. Further these states are primarily Republican in political leaning.
In contrast, only about one fifth of jobs are in the high-risk category in the very Democratic leaning coastal states such as New York and Maryland.
The findings of the study also indicate that there can also be a lingering of the economic tensions that framed Trump’s election and the trends could even be immune to his efforts to shift global trade policy in favor of U.S. manufacturers.
“The first era of digital automation was one of traumatic change…with employment and wage gains coming only at the high and low ends,” authors including Brookings Metro Policy Program director Mark Muro wrote about the spread of computer technology and robotics that began in the 1980s. “That our forward-looking analysis projects more of the same…will not, therefore, be comforting.”
Earlier research from the McKinsey Global Institute was also used in the study. Earlier research had investigated the role of 800 occupations, and the number of them that could be replaced by automation by 2030 considering the current technologies available.
The report noted that the “automation potential” of production jobs remains nearly 80 percent even though currently, some already-automated industries such as manufacturing, would continue to need less labour for a specific level of output. But in the near future, there would be pressure on jobs because of the spread of advanced techniques and as drivers are replaced by autonomous vehicles and the manner in which waiters, carpenters and others do their jobs is altered by smart technology.
However those employees with low skills would be impacted in particular with the spread of automation in industries such as food service and construction.
(Adapted from ChannelNewsAsia.com)