My last blog post looked at how technology affects the current workforce – you can read it here if you’ve missed it. Technological advances have changed the job market (and will, no doubt, continue to do so in years to come). Even though some new jobs are created (e.g. social media advisor), I argue that existing jobs are being displaced at a much faster rate; and that we (as a society) are struggling to keep up. Examples used in my previous blog post highlight some of the potential effects of technology on the current job market. Some of the disruptions are fairly obvious (e.g. email displaces snail mail), while others are less so (e.g. the effects of self-driving cars on the insurance industry). This begs the question, is your job safe? Are you at risk of being replaced by technology?

To date, technology has been fairly good at taking care of (and replacing) repetitive menial tasks. We have seen, over the last few decades, vast amount of factory and farm jobs replaced by technology – from machinery that help farmers milk cows to machinery that manufacture and assemble cars. One of the biggest online retailer, Amazon, has also recently opted to replace their warehouse distribution staff (or runners) with robots. I found this to be rather fascinating – you can see it in action here.

Most people would have realised by now that many manufacturing jobs can be easily replaced by technology; however, few are aware of the effects of technology on white collar jobs – jobs such as, but limited to, journalist, accountant, lawyers, and (possibly) even web developers (like me). Until recently, these jobs require a high level of thinking that can only be accomplished by a trained personnel – skills that computers are bad at; however, this is all about to change with the advent of machine learning technology. Unconvinced?

According to The Guardian, computers are already good at writing financial reports and sports news, and that it is only a matter of time before computers become good at journalistic writing. Currently in action is also a bot that summarises news items – though not perfect (yet), it does a pretty good job in listing some of the key points in an article – you can see it in action here. I personally think it is only a matter of time before machine journalism takes over.

The advent of accounting software such as MYOB and Xero has also meant that many accountants are at risk of being replaced by technology – sure, it is very unlikely that all accountants will be displaced by a piece of software (there are areas in accounting that requires specialisation); however, it is important to note that as long as the software is good though to take care of most of our daily accounting needs, there will be less demand for accountants in general. The same situation also applies for lawyers. Machine learning can now sift through hundreds and thousands of historic legal case files to find a precedent that can be applied to an existing case. This will no doubt displaces jobs held by law clerks.

So what is a safe job? If your job requires a high level of critical thinking and human interaction, it is unlikely that you will be displaced by technology; for example, jobs such as psychiatrist, social care worker, business analyst, and midwife. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that you should specifically train and apply for these jobs just because they are ‘safe’ options to go for. I still believe that people should study in areas that they are interested in (and if you are interested in becoming an accountant, by all means go for it). This blog post merely points out what the job market might look like in the near future when technology takes over. Personally, I would much rather have technology take care of most of our jobs, so we can spend more time with our family and love ones, doing things that we enjoy.

So is your job safe? Are you at risk of being replaced by technology? Click here to find out.

Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece. Views expressed here are entirely my own and they may not necessarily reflect those held by Careers and Employment or Victoria University of Wellington. I welcome your opinion on the topic. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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