Technology-Driven Task Replacement and the Future of Employment
Work and Labor in the Digital Age
ISBN: 978-1-78973-586-4, eISBN: 978-1-78973-585-7
Publication date: 4 July 2019
In this chapter, the authors offer a critical appraisal of predictions of a jobless future due do rapid technological change, as well as provide evidence on whether the rate of occupational change has been increasing. The authors critique the “task replacement” methodology that underlies the most powerful and specific predictions about the impact of technology on employment in particular occupations. There are a number of reasons why assuming a correspondence between task replacement and employment declines is not warranted. The authors also raise questions about how rapidly the development, acceptance, and diffiusion of labor-displacing technologies is likely to occur. In the empirical portion of the chapter, the authors compare the current rate of employment disruption with those observed in earlier periods. This analysis is based on an analysis of occupation data in the US covering the period 1870–2015. Using an index of dissimilarity as the metric, the authors find that the rate of occupational change from 1870 to 2015 does not provide evidence of a sharp uptick in the rate of occupational shifts in the information age. Instead, the rate of occupation shifts has been declining slowly throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Thus, the issues and results discussed here suggest that imminent massive employment displacement is not a foregone conclusion.
Jacobs, J.A. and Karen, R. (2019), "Technology-Driven Task Replacement and the Future of Employment", Vallas, S.P. and Kovalainen, A. (Ed.) Work and Labor in the Digital Age (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 33), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 43-60. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0277-283320190000033004
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