Can De-skilling Be a Job Creator?

'De-skill': Verb, to remove any need of skill, judgment, or initiative

Binary Solo
Getty/Alex Shahmiri PhotographyThe robots are coming, and they want your job.


By Debra Auerbach, CareerBuilder writer

The mere thought of job automation can fill workers with a sense of unease. And while de-skilling, i.e., replacing employees with automation, can be a job killer, it can be a job creator as well.

This is according to a new survey from CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialist Intl., which found that while 21 percent of companies report they have de-skilled workers, the vast majority of companies who have replaced workers with automation say their adoption of new technology resulted in new positions being added. What's more, 35 percent of companies that de-skilled workers ended up creating more jobs in their firms than they had prior to the automation. Which jobs are most affected?
Perhaps not surprisingly, information technology companies were twice as likely as all employers to say they've de-skilled workers at 42 percent. Other industries increasingly turning to job automation include financial services (27 percent) and manufacturing (23 percent).

Across industries, 31 percent of employers predict that certain jobs within their companies will likely be replaced by technology to some degree in the next decade. The functional areas most likely to be impacted, according to employers, include: While automation has produced greater efficiencies and output, eliminating the human factor can backfire in some cases. Thirty-five percent of companies that deskilled workers say they hired people back because the technology didn't work out.

De-skilling can lead to higher-paying positions
While de-skilling has caused the decline of certain jobs within the U.S. economy, it has also played a part in creating or expanding other positions, many of which are higher paying.

According to separate CareerBuilder/EMSI research, since 2002, 257 occupations experienced a decline in employment, roughly one third of all U.S. jobs. At the same time, 483 occupations (61 percent) grew 1 percent or more. The hourly earnings for the growing occupations were nearly $2 higher than the declining occupations.

While some of the losses and gains may have to do with economic cycles and globalization, automation has likely had a major influence on these employment shifts. For instance, due to the proliferation of the Internet and the automated travel websites that resulted, travel agents lost more than 38,000 jobs from 2002 to 2014. This represents a 34 percent decline in a field paying $16.17 per hour. At the same time, the number of software developers and Web developers increased by 195,000 from 2002 to 2014, paying $43 per hour.

"Technological advancements have not only increased productivity, but historically have led to an expansion of employment," says Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and co-author of "The Talent Equation." "While automation may eliminate some jobs, it also creates other jobs that are higher paying and lifts the standard of living for the economy as a whole. One of the greatest challenges the U.S. faces today is sufficiently preparing the workforce for the influx of more knowledge-based jobs that will likely result from progress in robotics and other STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering and math)."

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