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Don't fear the robots

Don't fear the robots

Posted on: 3/27/2018 | Author: ATB Financial's Economics + Research Team


Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming more prevalent in our workspaces. This may seem daunting from a job security standpoint but workers shouldn’t fear. Technological change has been a constant for decades and, even though some lines of work feel the impact, job markets, workers and the industries themselves continue to survive these shifts.

Farming, as an occupation, has changed dramatically over the course of several decades. Compared to 40 years ago, the number of people employed in Alberta’s agricultural sector has fallen by close to 33,000 (-40 per cent). Technology may have reduced and replaced many farm jobs but food production and farming have continued to keep pace with the global demand to produce more food.

Technological advancements have created jobs for replaced workers in other sectors and industries, including retail. Many would think the rise of automated checkouts and online shopping would affect employment within the retail sector but this is not the case. Since 2000, employment has increased in Alberta by nearly 86,000 positions (+34 per cent). That’s more than double the number of retail positions in the province 40 years ago.

Recently, NPR reported ​how a strawberry picking robot is trying to replace human workers. The key word here is trying. For now, the machine is still slower than human hands. While there may be apprehension around the rise of automation, AI and more efficient technology, it’s important to remember these changes to the job market are not new. Workers have adapted through decades of technological growth and managed to stay the course, in part because machine breakdowns make them invaluable, but also because robots have made many of their jobs easier.

Total employment, graph​​​​​

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