Unemployment: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
Americans mostly don’t realize it yet, but a tidal wave of unemployment is building on the horizon. This is because a second wave of unemployment due to industrialization is going to roll over the USA. The first wave was in the 19th and early 20th centuries when factories and tractors put countless millions of workers out of work in traditionally labour intensive occupations like weaving and farming. The result was a massive growth in cities around the world, and ultimately what we call the “modern world” in the west. While huge numbers of jobs were lost in fields involving manual labour, the growth of factories and the rise of the middle class ensured that ultimately industrialization was a good thing. At least until the 1980s when the middle class started losing ground, but I digress. It’s going to get much worse in the USA with tens of millions of jobs disappearing in the next few decades:
- Driving. The robotic car is now a reality. It won’t happen overnight, but virtually all occupations that involve driving are going to go. Truck drivers and bus drivers will be the first to go. Delivery people, taxis, and pretty much all other driving occupations will follow. Trains and airplanes won’t be far behind. Why pay a chopper pilot and a news guy when a drone can do the same thing?
- Clerks/checkers/baggers. Automatic checkout lines are becoming common in the big chain stores, this trend will only increase. Toll booth operators are soon to be a thing of the past. Basically any time a customer hands someone money, that job is at risk.
- Farming and landscaping applications. Tractor drivers and just in general people who operate equipment will slowly be phased out. Robotic lawn mowers are already being used on golf courses. Machines to robotically weed fields are in development.
- Answering phones. This is already well underway, but soon enough all phone calls will be handled by software. Even the guys in call centres in India will be out of work. And sales calls will eventually be replaced by robots, especially the low grade ones where they are targeting seniors and such. If someone’s job is to make or take phone calls, their job’s days are numbered.
- One can add to this list things like prisons, schools, and the Post Office … all of which will likely be privatized within the next decade. And cutting staff is the first and last thing that happens when corporations take over a private function.
I am sure there is plenty I am missing. There’s other factors to be considered. brick and board businesses moving to an Internet base will continue to happen. Lastly, many of the above jobs when they go will also put other people out of work. Robotic truck drivers will only be buying gas at truck stops for starters. A whole history and culture of truck stop waitresses, cooks, and other people providing service to truck drivers will be gone. And of course there will be indirect job losses, every time someone loses a job, they have less money to spend and other businesses suffer. On the flip side, some new jobs will be created building and servicing robotic technology. Even without drivers trucks will still need regular maintenance and repair. Still, that won’t last forever, we’ve had robotic car washes for decades, robotic repair and maintenance facilities will eventually be built.
My main point here is that simply in the natural order of things, industrialization and robotics are going to destroy huge numbers of traditional jobs in the decades to come. This is the elephant in the room that the rich and powerful take pains not to bring up. Because they and their government minions are working very hard to ensure that when these jobs are eliminated, that the salaries get redirected into the ever increasing coffers of the rich. There are plenty of things government and society could do to encourage a healthy middle class, small businesses, and self-employment … but alas the opposite is the case. Instead they have concentrated on convincing people that the destruction of the middle class is because of immigrants, unions, welfare cheats, and the like. In effect convincing people to support policies that are actually making them poorer and the rich richer.
The next few decades are going to be interesting indeed.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is a bread line during the great depression. The men are all obviously welfare cheats and scammers, look, most of them even still have hats and shoes! Democrats no doubt.)