Why quality jobs are ahead, not behind

Automation, more than globalization, has changed the job market. If Donald Trump and others seek to ‘bring back’ good jobs, they must first deal with people’s fears of automation – and learn from those who have adapted.

A humanoid robot works side by side with employees at a factory of Glory Ltd., a manufacturer of automatic change dispensers, in Kazo, Japan.

One of the Monitor’s regular readers, a woman in her mid-90s, uses a desktop computer, an iPad, and a smartphone. Yet as a young child in the 1920s, her family’s rural home had no electricity, no refrigerator, no radio, and definitely no TV. Back then her parents’ car, which replaced a horse and buggy, was not driven in the winter because of muddy roads. Snowplow trucks had not been invented.

What is remarkable about this tech-savvy woman is her lifelong lack of fear to adapt to new devices.  Many seniors have become accustomed to the frequent public debates over the effects of automation on jobs and other aspects of life. (Congress held a hearing on the topic – again – last spring. The first one was in 1955.) These elders know that new technologies, while possibly disruptive, also bring opportunities for new types of work and social interaction.

They’ve also learned what it takes to adapt: a curiosity and humility to learn new skills, a flexibility to move, and a confidence that humans will always be able to do something that robots and other machines cannot. These qualities can help individuals overcome a fear of adapting to the rapid pace of digital change.

These are lessons for President-elect Donald Trump as he tries to “bring back” the quality jobs that he says were lost to free trade and globalization. Economists say that automation – which is driven by companies seeking efficiency from global competition – is the main reason so many tech jobs of the 20th century have been lost. The real task is to assist people in adapting to the benefits of new technologies. “A free people must strive to govern its technologies and not passively be governed by them,” states Adam Keiper, a fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington.

Still, says Mr. Keiper, today’s automation is different in two aspects. One is that many jobs that rely on high-level thinking could be handed off to artificial intelligence. And two, robotic machines, such as driverless cars, will be doing more to navigate and manipulate the physical world.

“The job market will change, but in something like the way it has changed over the last half-century: some kinds of jobs will disappear, but new kinds of jobs will be created, and by and large people will be able to adapt to the shifting demands on them while enjoying the great benefits that automation makes possible,” he stated.

The first task is to deal with the fear of being dislocated by automation. In his latest book, titled “Thank You for Being Late,” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman looked at the fast pace of change and all the confusion among workers reflected in the 2016 presidential campaign. He recalled the words of scientist Marie Curie: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Many workers laid off by automation have re-tooled themselves for the new technologies. Still, schools and governments can do more to help people adjust to the need for transferable skills that apply to emerging types of automation. An estimated 65 percent of kids entering school today will have job types that don’t yet exist. What they, like the rest of us, can learn is how our elders learned long ago to be wise in adapting to new technologies.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Why quality jobs are ahead, not behind
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today