A recent study conducted by Oxford University shows that a significant number of jobs in the US will be at risk in the next twenty years. According to the report, the jobs at risk (47%) are due to the computerization and automation of business processes in the workplace. Jobs in the manufacturing, transportation, logistics and office administration industries will be mostly hit as repetitive tasks can now be done by robots. Tech news giant Mashable even listed the traditional jobs that are being replaced by machines or automation software. These jobs include bank teller, cashier, mail carrier, and travel agent. Advanced technology has made it possible for most of these jobs to be handled by machines or software capable of doing the same job.
These days, everywhere you look you can see advanced technology at work: supermarkets in various countries now have automated check-out counters that let shoppers pay for their purchased goods without the aid of a person behind a cash register. Just recently, Amazon announced its plan to use flying drones capable of delivering packages, thus eliminating the need for couriers, which my friend at Roswell Roofing Company doesn’t particularly like. Google, Audi and BMW have developed driverless cars while travel Web portals such as Expedia enable travelers to book flights and accommodations on their own without the help of an agent.
Because of these modern wonders, some analysts are now seeing technology as being partly responsible for the rising unemployment. According to a 2012 report conducted by the US-based National Bureau of Economic Research, workers who have lost their jobs because of automation or computerization found it difficult to find another work in a similar field.
However, other economists have also argued that technology alone is not to be blame. There are other factors such as the global financial crisis and world trade that can be attributed to unemployment. Some also argued that it is possible for humans to work side by side with machines, and that technology is just a tool that can aid people in their work.
The Oxford University report suggests that in order for workers at risk of becoming obsolete to keep up with the modern times, they have to acquire new skills and explore other options in other fields. The jobs predicted to grow in the coming years are those in the creative and social fields. This means that workers would have to develop these skills in order to stay relevant and competitive.
What does this mean to the outsourcing industry?
While robots and automated machines might handle jobs faster than live workers can, people still need humans for personal communication. If a previous study done by Ipsos is any indication, people still prefer human interaction, particularly when doing business transactions.
Highly personalized service done by humans is something that a machine or a software cannot replicate. A virtual assistant, for example, can not only manage various tasks but can also help formulate and analyze data, develop creative strategies and be with a client every step of the business process from development, monitoring to maintenance and evaluation.
The fact that the outsourcing industry continues to thrive today shows the value and importance of human interaction between business and clients, be it through customer support, system administration, sales or marketing. Robots and machines may run a manufacturing plant but businesses still need people to repair the machines, sell and market the product and maintain customers.
History tells us that humans have always managed to adapt to change. People, therefore, can always think of ways to create new job opportunities from emerging technologies.
To say that human workers are becoming obsolete is a presumption that shouldn’t be a cause for worry. People just need to adapt, continue to learn, and take advantage of what technology can do for us to make our life easier.