Most of us love technology, and those of us who work at Internet companies might say we owe our jobs to it.
But many people are on the other side of that equation.
Workers have been displaced by technology since work began. But a new study shows just how powerfully technology is now changing the job market. The divide is increasing between highly skilled jobs, such as doctors and software developers, and lower skilled and service jobs such as retail clerks and hairstylists.
And more of the jobs in the middle are disappearing as technology takes over routine tasks in industries that we generally think of as heavy on human interaction.
The loss of these mid-wage jobs is one reason the economy has struggled to get out of the last recession, writes Claire Cain Miller in the New York Times. The recession gave companies a reason to lay people off, and instead of refilling those jobs, more are finding ways to use technology to handle tasks again.
Young people and less skilled workers have been hit the hardest. Interestingly, men have been more affected than women.
“Women who would otherwise be finding middle-paying routine jobs tend to be moving up the job ladder to these higher-paying brain jobs, whereas men are much more likely to just be moving from blue-collar jobs into not finding a job,” said Henry E. Siu, who co-authored the study for the National Bureau of Economic Research.
While demographic shifts and economic polities also play roles in the changing job landscape, technology is the biggest reason mid-wage jobs are disappearing. Solutions, of course, are harder than diagnosing a problem. But is seems a safe assumption that workers can expect the transformation of our economy to continue, perhaps accelerate, and to make career choices that leave them least vulnerable to losing their jobs.