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If this job trend continues, what do we do next?

There's a clear overall trend in labor, as we increase mechanization. Before the industrial revolution, we needed pretty much every hand employed, from sunup to sundown, basically from early childhood to death, simply to keep everyone clothed and fed and such.

After factories automated a lot of things that we used to do laboriously by hand, like fabric production, we were able to have as much or more stuff even if no one really started working before age 16. And we started to have the concept of a retirement age--an age past which you didn't have to work any more, even if you were physically capable of working. We also started to have a meaningful unemployment rate--people who didn't have jobs not because they were unwilling to work, or unable to work, but simply because no one wanted to hire them.

Now, even with very few people really starting to work before 18, and often not until 22 or later, and with rather shorter work weeks than we had in the past, and with pretty much everyone retiring years before they die, we have an even bigger unemployment rate, even though we have more stuff than we ever had before.

The trend is clear. We are producing all the stuff we could reasonably want, with less and less actual human labor. Eventually, if the trend continues, we'll reach a point where we can only meaningfully employ a tiny fraction of the population. What then? How do we keep the unemployed from starving and/or rioting in the streets? Any other thoughts?

Update:

Note: I'm not necessarily talking about what we should do *right now*. But, eventually, we'll reach a point where even things like fast food are automated. What then?

Update 2:

Note: I'm not talking about the ~10% unemployment we have now. I'm talking a future when we reach, say, 50% or 80% or 90% unemployment, unless we artificially create jobs or something. Closing the border won't help that one...

8 Answers

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  • 5 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Well, you actually do have a point. Automation, machinery, and improved productivity HAS indeed reduced the need for labor in our economy. American manufacturers have used mechanization to replace workers in a big way, and a lot of the work that can't be mechanized has been sent offshore in search of cheaper wages. Time was a HS diploma was a ticket to a well-paying blue-collar manufacturing job. Things have changed, not because manufacturing went away, but because it's no longer the jobs engine it once was.

    On the flip side, this dramatic increase in worker productivity and mechanization has allowed us to live better. People didn't live the way they do today a century ago.

    I don't think this means necessarily that jobs are going to go away, nor that unemployment is destined to dramatically increase, but it does mean that work is changing, and that skills and education are going to be more important than ever. And that doesn't just mean that all jobs are going to be white-collar - skilled trade craft is going to be equally valuable.

    So the thing is, what to do about it? (if anything?) Well as some posters pointed out, you could create jobs by going back in time, and getting rid of some technologies (after all, the amish have 0% unemployment). but I'm not sure that's really the best way forward. I think technology is pretty much an unstoppable force. It's changed our lives, and will continue to do so. I think a better course of action is not to forego improvements in productivity, but rather to embrace it, but at the same time realize that it causes change in society and the workforce, and that not all of those changes are positive.

    If I had to pick the single most important thing that I think the U.S. needs to do as a society in light of this trend, it would be to invest in education at all levels. And not just the advanced STEM degrees that everyone is talking about, but at lower levels as well, and especially things like adult education and job training for displaced low-skill workers.

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  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    If you want to keep people from rioting in the streets, we need to close the border and remove the unneeded illegal labor from the workforce. Giving them green cards because 'it's fair' is destroying this country.

    I have yet to see a creel rack stock and thread itself. That would be a sight to behold.

    What good does automating fast food do when no one who would actually eat it can afford to buy it?

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    • Lv 7
      5 years agoReport

      Depends on where you are, I suppose, and which statistics you like best. I can't make you see what I see, and you'll believe what you need to believe.

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  • 5 years ago

    Efficiency and less work should be a welcome development-

    But without jobs to move you away from community every day-you become a danger.

    destabilization, lower wages- corporate shifting of jobs.

    SWars, ecologic destructIon- your future in control by the rich depends on shifting realities.

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  • 5 years ago

    We need to create massive public works projects, to build infrastructure, to employ the people. The results of those projects must be publicly maintained (not sold for private interests), so that the cumulative effect of broad based automation, and ultimately AI assisted manufacturing, does not erode the entire labor market. We must do this to ensure there is hope for the masses.

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  • 5 years ago

    Automation requires trained technicians to fix robots, electronics and information systems. LOL Jobs eliminated from the job pool are replaced by new positions, usually requiring more education and training. LOL

    I suggest being educated and aware of where the jobs of the future are going to be. LOL

    • ChemFlunky
      Lv 7
      5 years agoReport

      But, instead of needing a hundred workers to manufacture the items, you need one or 2 techs to service the machines. So what do the other 98-99 people do for a job?

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  • Bill
    Lv 7
    5 years ago

    we need to close the border now or have a 95% unemployment rate and pure chaos.

    of course that's what numb nuts wants.

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  • 5 years ago

    There will always be a need for fast food workers. I'd recommend that career path for young people.

    • ChemFlunky
      Lv 7
      5 years agoReport

      until they automate *that*, too.

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  • 5 years ago

    Sigh...

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