Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2 billion job losses predicted. Is yours one of them?

[caption id="attachment_14137" align="alignleft" width="300"] Taxis in New York[/caption]

Carol Forsloff - According to Futurist Thomas Frey 2 billion jobs will disappear from the world during the next  15 to 20 years.  Will you be among those losing your entire occupation?

Technology has already shifted or eliminated many jobs, even as new ones are created, requiring more and more technical knowledge that itself becomes obsolete as even newer technology is developed.  For example, how many VCR technicians remain now that the digital age is upon us?  CD players, now popular, are reduced by MP3 players and other gadgets that allow thousands of music files to be accessed in the palm of one’s hand.

For the next twenty years,  Frey predicts five large industries will be impacted by job losses.  As the power grid shifts from national to micro grids, power lines will come down and along with it the repairmen and other personnel associated with the old systems.  Driverless cars will replace buses, taxis, delivery drivers and other forms of transportation, causing thousands of jobs to be lost.  Teachers, administrators and support personnel in the educational systems can be replaced, as well as universities and schools, as online courses, like Apple’s Open Course Ware,  continue to be available for free.   3D printers can allow the printing of virtually any three-dimensional object, including clothes and shoes, as well as construction materials.  What happens to the manufacturers in these areas?  Again,  lost jobs.  Robotic technology, Frey tells us, will reduce even more jobs, as people who do various service jobs are replaced with robots.

Journalists have already been impacted negatively, as journalism departments in many universities have closed, as more and more high schools no longer offer courses in the subject, as the democratization of the news by citizens is imbued with the energy of Facebook.

In the brave new world that’s already upon us, education and re-education are the keys to maintaining current.  But to be current, one will have to be constantly learning new devices that require increasingly sophisticated skills.   That education solution is founded upon the basic education in reading, math and the sciences.  With a high dropout rate from the nation’s schools, will young people be able to compete and learn those new skills?

The downside of technology, Frey reminds us, will create shifts in politics, social movements and attitude changes as well.  In can create serious social upheaval as people are replaced with robots that can be engineered to either build or destroy.

Other than the issues described by Frey, other business professionals in employment maintain retooling is the answer to the changes that are here and others that are coming.  “The jobs that are vulnerable are routine and repetitive and don’t require continual face-to-face contact like health care,” is the opinion of Phil Gardner, director of research at Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute.

That brave new world that is embraced by youth as empowering may indeed have the elements to force significant change that will impact billions of people.  Those who can’t, or won’t, change to keep up will be those who will suffer most, according to those like Frey who look at these advances from many perspectives.