It’s a problem that the American public knows of but hears far too little about: job loss to automation.
With politicians talking about jobs being sent overseas or stolen by immigrants, one may be fascinated to know that the biggest threat to American jobs isn’t people from other countries. The biggest threat to the American job market doesn’t come from people at all. According to a report by Forbes, millions of jobs have already been lost to automation over the past fifteen years. One of those jobs was mine.
Like many people my age, I graduated from high school in June and moved to college in the fall. With all the uncertainty around that time, I had what I thought to be one valuable certainty in my life for the foreseeable future: a part-time job. Like any student, my hope was to save the money I earned for college so that I wouldn’t have as much debt once I graduated.
By August, I had been working at this part-time job for fourteen months. I was proud of myself for not only getting my first job but also being able to commit to it while being a full-time student. I was even more proud of working with such kind and professional coworkers, some of whom I call friends today. After moving to college, I had planned on continuing this commitment, even organizing my college schedule around it.
However, one morning in mid-August, I was unexpectedly called into a meeting with one of my supervisors. There I was told that my position was being replaced, not with another person like one would expect, but with a robot.
My first instinct was to go out searching for another job in order to stick to the plan I made for the rest of the year. What stopped me, for the moment, was my need to concentrate on my schoolwork. While I was fortunate enough to be given two-weeks notice and having school to work on, many throughout the country have had or will have to encounter the same problem I had—albeit at a much more significant level.
According to a new report by the Brookings Institution and CNBC, twenty-five percent of all jobs in the U.S are at a high risk of being automated, particularly jobs that are more factory and routine-based. Most media coverage concerning automation focuses on job loss in the manufacturing industry, and rightfully so. While I have college to focus on, many in that field are full-time workers, relying on those jobs to pay for their bills and families.
That’s not to say that those are the only people who are going to be impacted. In the same report, part-time jobs most commonly held by people in my age range could also be severely affected, with more than half of “current tasks” held by sixteen to twenty-four year olds at risk of being automated. This would only make navigating the expenses of college more difficult, as students could have more difficulty finding a part-time job during college and therefore, a more difficult time paying off their student loans.
Automation is not a distant development. It has already happened and will continue to happen. While new technology has certainly improved the lives of many throughout the years, it is important to recognize the damage it can do to many in the economy from manufacturing workers to college students. I experienced it firsthand at the age of eighteen and many more throughout the country from all sorts of backgrounds may experience it sooner rather than later.
Student debt is a stressful issue for many students across the country, and now automation of part-time jobs held by people in my age range are making it even harder.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.