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What is Technological Unemployment?

What is Technological Unemployment?

It is not easy to understand technological unemployment without understanding dynamics of an economy. It certainly requires deep research to understand this debating topic.
Kundan Pandey
Generally, economists use the term technological unemployment to describe a condition arising due to lack of jobs occurring from stupendous growth in technology and innovations. The concerns for such a type of unemployment started becoming prominent after the industrial revolution, when a large section of manual work was replaced by machines.

About Technological Unemployment
In the western countries, after industrial revolution, there was a drastic growth in the science and technology works. Most of the works in factories and mills that were earlier performed by laborers were replaced by machines. Although this increased the efficiency and outputs of production, a large number of people were unemployed.

Generally, scholars and economists categorize this form of unemployment as a part of "structural unemployment". The scenario of structural unemployment is created when a labor market has a large number of worker requirements, however, their skills mismatch as required in the jobs. When people seeking employment don't have the required skills to fit in the role of a designation, they may remain unemployed for a long time, thereby decreasing their worth for getting any other job.

Examples of Technological Unemployment
Although, there are no statistics and convincing data to suggest the number of people unemployed due to growth of a specific technology, still, some obvious places where technology has reduced the requirement of manual labor have been mentioned further. The examples we're giving you is just for informative purpose and it has no statistics.
  • Paper and Post Office Work: As Internet penetrates every strata of the society, it is highly possible that post office or mail carrier work will become obsolete within few years.
  • Lifts and Elevators Operators: There was a time when every elevator required elevator operators however, with fully automated lift systems, the requirement of elevator operators is no more.
  • Bank Cashiers: With the extent computers have become an integral part of banks, the job of cashiers, that mainly involves counting and dealing with notes and currencies, can be automated by self check in and self check out machines.
  • Highway Toll Operators: Almost all national highways have toll operators that are managed by people. However, the growth of technology is predicted to make the entire pass systems, extremely easy.
  • Teachers: Just like me, you must have been surprised to know that even teacher's profession can be in danger with the growth of online teaching systems. This may sound quite skeptical but there is no denying this possibility. Obviously, no technology can replace human interaction, it is surely important. But when computers and Internet are making it easy to read and understand things, they're surely going to cause some impact on teachers employment. However, it is just an idea and not an exact possibility.
  • Assembly Line Workers: This was the most important aspect of technological unemployment during the Great Depression. Lot of factories were established, which causing massive unemployment.
It is a fact that the fast replacing technologies are changing the sphere of work. Sooner robotics may replace many works that people are doing in factories. In fact, many automobile companies rely heavily on technological growth to improve their production. Certainly, it is quite a common feature of an economy where technology is developing. Something like agriculture, where manual work is involved on a large scale, even there, the presence of advanced technologies has reduced the need of manual laborers.

So does it mean that technological unemployment will be the future reality? Perhaps not. No matter if robots or similar technologies are able to do everything, right from running a restaurant to cook food, we have to understand two things about an economy.

There is a term called 'comparative advantage' in economics. It states that even if a technology is superior to man power, it may be employed at tasks only in which it is best. Though, robots may be able to do everything possible, it is not feasible to employ them in every aspect of work. It is right now expensive to manufacture robots and employing them on a large scale, isn't a cake walk.

The flexibility that human resource brings with it, can't be compared with that of robots. It is obvious that human employment will exist and as the very purpose of our existence is for our own needs! For instance, consider full scale employment of robot waiters at McDonald's or robot nannies for your kids? Will the programmed robot nanny be able to understand the intricacies of a kids' emotions?

It has to be understood that it is not easy to state how will the future labor markets be, especially when globalization is a present day reality. Even if we imagine a scenario where even a nail in the wood will be hit by a robot, the need of human labor can't be denied.

Technological unemployment in growing economies requires a multidimensional understanding of every aspect of economics. My personal view is that surely our future, probably between 2030 and 2050 will see a dramatic shift in our work culture, however, I don't think value of human force will be lessened in any way. After all, it is the human mind that is the generator of all things! Nonetheless, not being a pro in economics, I may not be the best person to comment anything. Economists and scholars must make some serious study about this form of unemployment. Is it just a farce or it can be future reality? Only time will tell...