New technology such as artificial intelligence and automation could put one third of able-bodied American men between ages 25 and 54 out of a job by 2050, according to the author of “The Future of Work: Robots, AI and Automation.”
“We’re already at 12 percent of prime-aged men without jobs,” said Darrell West, vice president of the public policy think tank, the Brookings Institution. That percentage has risen steadily over the past 60 years, West noted, predicting that it is likely to triple in the next 30 years.
Unemployment could be worse for some segments of the population, such as young male African Americans, a group for which jobless rates are expected to reach 50 percent by 2050.
“That, my friends, is a catastrophe,” West said at a forum on Monday in Washington, D.C.
West contended that many strategies could be implemented to avert such an employment crisis, including rethinking education. “Schools need to change their curriculum so that students have the skills needed in the 21st century economy,” West said.
Molly Kinder, a senior adviser at progressive think tank New America, cited the current state of the manufacturing sector in the United States as an example of what will occur across many occupations. Jobs held by low-wage, low-skilled workers without advanced education will be replaced by automation.
In order to combat the likelihood of soaring unemployment rates, Kinder contended that public policymakers should make education — especially in technology — a priority for low-skilled workers.
The economic shift is already affecting employment in the U.S. According to a Pew Research study published in October, approximately 6 percent of all adults surveyed reported that they lost a job or had their pay or hours reduced due to automation.
West’s new book addressed the use of robotics in the service industry, and quoted Andrew Puzder, former CEO of Hardee’s parent company CKE, who remarked that digital devices are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”
MarketWatch reported that young members of the workforce are concerned about the prospect of their jobs being replaced by automation.
A study published by Gallup in June revealed that approximately 37 percent of millennials are at high risk of having their job replaced by artificial intelligence or automation. Among that group, one-third are experiencing workplace anxiety related to being laid off or having their jobs outsourced.
The same poll found that 59 percent of executives believe that data science and analytical skills will be essential communication skills in their companies within five years.