Study Finds That Automation Could Eliminate 47 Percent of American Jobs

Food server jobs in the U.S. – waiters and waitresses – had a 94 percent probability of being computerized over the next 20 years…

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(Andrew Burger, Computerized automation has been replacing people in jobs across the U.S. for years.

But could automation replace as many as 65 percent of jobs in the Las Vegas service industry over the next 20 years?

And should workers be concerned about that possibility?

After hearing that high number in class, UNLV Harrah College of Hospitality graduate student Ok Yung “Beth” Wi set out to find out if that’s possible.

“In the beginning, I wanted to defend that robots will never be able to replace people, but it’s happening,” Wi said, according to the University of Nevada Las Vegas Campus News. “Now my thesis will be about how we can incorporate robots in the hospitality industry so they’re not met with a bunch of resistance.”

The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) isn’t actively gathering data or analyzing the extent and impacts of robots and computerization on Nevada’s labor market. That said, DETR Supervising Economist Christopher Robison noted that “in terms of automation that we are aware of, we have seen an increase in many industries, ranging from accommodation and food service to manufacturing.”

In a 2013 study that Wi based some of her work on, Oxford University researchers used “a novel methodology” to estimate the probability of computerization for 702 detailed occupations to produce estimates and examine expected impacts of future computerization in the U.S. labor market. The main objective was to analyze “the number of jobs at risk and the relationship between an occupation’s probability of computerization, wages and educational attainment,” they explained.

According to their analysis, about 47 percent of total U.S. employment is at risk of computerization. The researchers went on to provide evidence that there was a strong, negative relationship between wages and educational attainment and the probability that any given occupation would be computerized, i.e. jobs that require higher levels of education, are less likely to be computerized than those that require less education.

“We do see bits and pieces of information here and there – a self-order kiosk, for example, but whether these are actually replacing jobs or enabling existing employees to be more productive is a lot harder to say,” DETR Chief Economist David Schmidt said.

“When you see an automated cash register or checkout, you still need people to maintain that, as well as people to provide services to customers. It’s not a replacement, rather a means of increasing employee productivity. Whether or not there will be a wholesale replacement [of robots or other computerized machines for human labor] we don’t have the data to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and I wouldn’t want to speculate on that.”

There isn’t a direct, one-to-one relationship between automation and changes in employment, however, Robison said.

“For example, automation in an assembly plant may lead to an assembler being replaced by a robot that does 80 percent of the job – the repetitive part – and instead requires a technician to make sure that the robot is running, or one who does a more delicate part of the job that robots are not yet capable of performing reliably.”

A 2016 report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) took a different approach – task-based as opposed to occupation-based – to explore the subject, Robison said. The OECD researchers concluded that the occupation-based model the Oxford University researchers used probably overestimates the probability that human workers will be replaced by computerized machines, such as robots, he pointed out. The OECD research results concluded that just 9 percent of jobs were susceptible to computerized automation, ranging from 6 percent in South Korea to 12 percent in Australia.

The actual type of task or job, along with where and in what setting the automation is taking place and what people want, are key considerations when designing and carrying out studies into the subject, Schmidt said.

Food server jobs in the U.S. – waiters and waitresses – had a 94 percent probability of being computerized over the next 20 years despite the fact that the researchers gave these jobs a zero percent likelihood of actually being computerized given customers’ wants and expectations, according to the Oxford University research results, Schmidt noted. The jobs of models (fashion models, commercial models, etc.) had a 98 percent of being computerized.

“These are interesting results given the sum total of occupations and tasks [in the economy], but just because they’re routine doesn’t necessarily mean they can be easily replaced by a computer,” Schmidt concluded.

While she said she was initially skeptical that robots could replace humans at the “front line” of the hospitality industry, Wi has become a full-fledged supporter and cheerleader for the robotics industry in the hospitality sector.

“There are fears of robots replacing humans, but with the technology in place, new jobs are being created,” she said. “While robots take care of the simple, repetitive jobs, employees can proactively engage with customers to provide a better service experience.

“In this way, robots will be more welcomed in hospitality. My job is to make sure when you see robots at a hotel, robots are there to serve people, not to replace or take away human jobs…Original Source