The job market is changing (well, water is wet). We have moved from the days of needing a switchboard operator to transfer calls at a telephone exchange to everyone carrying a smartphone in their pocket. The way we work and communicate with each other have also changed because of technology. I still remember the days where all my bills are sent through via snail mail and we have to go to the post office to organise payments. These days, everything is setup via direct debit or automatic payment, and the bill arrives via email. I can’t say I miss the days of lining up at the post office just to pay my power bill (remember those lunch hour rush?). I am actually glad that technology has stepped in to take care of such mundane task. Most of us welcome such change (as consumers), but we rarely stop to think about how this affects the workforce and the job market.
Advances in technology have made some jobs obsolete and drastically reduced others. We no longer need someone to transfer our calls at the telephone exchange; the stock market trading floors are no longer filled with traders yelling buy or sell orders; and since we are sending less (snail) mail, we have less posties – NZ Post has recently cut down on deliveries (and hence jobs) to cope with the lack of demand. The list of jobs affected by technology is endless, with varying effects on the current workforce and the job market.
One of the most anticipated technological advances lurking on the horizon is the self-driving car. The technology brings many benefits – the roads will be safer and more efficient, our commute will be less stressful, and there will be less road rage (in theory). Self-driving cars will also allow us to enjoy a few drinks in town without worrying about driving home drunk (this is great isn’t it?). I am actually looking forward to the day where most cars on the roads are self-driven. I think the technology will make our lives better (and safer). That said, I can’t help but wonder what such technology will do to our current workforce. The advent of self-driving cars will, no doubt, displace certain jobs (e.g. truck drivers, bus drivers, and taxi drivers). It will also disrupt various industries, such as hotel and insurance. We no longer need to insure for human errors on the roads, and we can sleep in our car on the drive home after a long trip rather than staying an extra night out of town. The logistics and automotive industries will also undergo radical changes because of self-driving cars. These changes aren’t necessarily bad (in fact, I think it is a good thing), but what does it mean for our current workforce?
Some would argue that these changes are nothing new – the job market is (and always has been) changing, and that new jobs are (almost always) created to replace those that are made obsolete by technology. This is true to some extent. My job, for example, didn’t exist twenty years ago. Jobs like social media advisor aren’t even heard of until recently. That said, I can’t help but feel that this time is different. We are living in an era where technology has advanced at such a rapid pace that the job market is struggling to keep up – I certainly didn’t think everyone will be carrying a smartphone in their pocket ten years ago, let alone being able to transfer funds from one account to another on the go. Newly created jobs require different skills compared to those that were displaced by technology. But are we ready for such change?
My next blog post will look at jobs that are most (or least) likely to be affected by technology. This includes a discussion on how we could do our best prepare for such change. Stay tuned.
Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece. Views expressed here are entirely my own and they may not necessarily reflect those held Careers and Employment or Victoria University of Wellington. I welcome your opinion on the topic. Please feel free to leave a comment below.