With the rise of new technology, the fear of human jobs becoming automated has grown in recent years.
Workers are now worrying so much about their jobs being taken by robots and artificial intelligence (AI) that studies have shown that the fear of automation affects their physical and mental health due to the perception of their job security being depleted.
With a high risk of automation comes a high association with poorer health of employees due to the stress associated with not being able to make ends meet or provide for their families.
But are the risks as grand as people seem to think? This may not be the case.
Although it may be possible to program technology to perform certain tasks such as processing data or physical labour — tasks that require “hard skills” or specific knowledge or abilities — robots and AI are not advanced enough for emotional intelligence — understanding human feelings, empathizing or relating to human emotions.
These “soft skills” are not programmable. We cannot make machines experience and understand the nuances of the human condition — at least, not at this moment in time and likely not anytime in the tangible future.
According to a 2018 report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), it is estimated that 75 million jobs may be taken over by technology by the year 2022. This comes with a silver lining: an estimated 133 million jobs could be created as a result of this shift, which would represent a net increase of 58 million total jobs worldwide.
There would be a range of careers that would increase in demand, including tech jobs such as software developers and data analysts. We would also likely see an increase in demand for jobs that require emotional intelligence and are heavy in human interaction such as nurses and doctors, sales and marketing professionals and customer service professionals.
There is potential for technology to complement many jobs rather than hurt them.
Automation can prove most useful in completing specific work tasks rather than entire jobs. Around two-thirds of jobs today could have roughly 30 per cent of their current tasks automated, which would allow employees more time to focus on complex and valuable tasks rather than dedicating the bulk of their work day to repetitive work which can slow down productivity.
Relying on automation for those repetitive tasks also would also eliminate the risk of human error which, in turn, would limit the burden of having to redo and check over the work to correct it.
It is clear that we can use technology and automation to help enhance a range of jobs rather than replace them entirely.
What employers need to focus on for the future is redefining employee roles and combining their responsibilities into new roles — roles which would exclude automated tasks and include tasks that allow their employees to contribute their full value and full potential rather than spending long periods of time on monotonous work.
It is important that, in a country where half of the workforce will see a change to their job due to automation, the change is beneficial to the workers.
Employers surveyed by the WEF advised that an estimated 46 per cent of employees will not need to be retrained for new skills in order to succeed at work leading up to 2022.
The number of jobs available for humans to fill is a constantly growing number.
As human beings, we are highly adaptable creatures and we possess the ability to find new and innovative ways to put our time and energy to use.
Change is a scary concept for a lot of people, especially with many unknowns in technology development.
However, it doesn’t have to spell doom and gloom and will likely help us in the future to make aspects of our jobs feel more meaningful and less dull.