Study: Automation More Likely To Alter Jobs Than Destroy Them

Date: December 08, 2015

While Automation Not Expected To Cause Job Loss, Science And Technology Skills Are Increasingly Important

US News & World Report reported that a new study by James Bessen of the Boston University School of Law predicts that increased automation and the use of computerized workers will reshape more jobs than they destroy. The study found that using machines makes work more efficient and that employers using computers to complete or assist job tasks are more likely to increase demand for their services and create new jobs. Bessen said, “The problem is not that a computer will steal your job — it’s that another person who has more advanced skills could steal your job,” as automation requires workers to learn new skills in math, science, and computer engineering.

The New York Times presented a more upbeat view of the study, adding that Bessen found that employment actually grows significantly faster in occupations that use computers more. A similar report from McKinsey Global Institute also found recently that automation alters jobs, rather than eliminates them. For example, automated teller machines were widely adopted by banks, but the number of tellers has increased. The ATMs reduced the cost of operating bank branches so banks greatly expanded their branch networks, with increased demand more than offsetting the jobs displaced by technology. The policy implication of his research, Bessen said, is to promote public policies that make it easier for workers to get vocational education and move to new jobs.

What This Means For Small Business

Increasing automation should allay workers’ concerns about their job security. Additionally, the study suggests that the cost savings realized by increased automation can be immediately reinvested into growth. Overall, the increasing pace of automation could lower the barriers to entry for small business owners and increase competition and innovation. The study also underscores the importance of technical skills in today’s changing economy.

Additional Reading

A summary of the study is available to read.

Note: this article is intended to keep small business owners up on the latest news. It does not necessarily represent the policy stances of NFIB.

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