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Automation, offshoring threaten large portion of American workforce

Posted at 5:22 PM, Jul 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-21 17:22:18-04

(RNN) - A study from Ball State University in Indiana reported that half of the jobs in America could be replaced by automation in the future, and 25 percent of U.S. jobs face being moved overseas.

Researchers published the stark numbers in a study titled "How Vulnerable Are American Communities to Automation, Trade, and Urbanization?" The study released a county-by-county risk assessment for automation and offshoring.

"These studies reveal that roughly one in four Americans jobs, across the income and educational spectrum, are at risk of foreign competition in the coming years," the researchers said. "Much more critically, approximately half of the jobs are at risk for automation. Thus, considerable additional labor market turbulence is likely in the coming generation."

The study is not all doom and gloom, however. The researchers do not wholesale condemn globalization and laissez-faire trade policies, which are hot-button issues for President Donald Trump's administration.

They instead focus on how those forces could have a disproportionate effect on low-skill workers and regions of the country were industry is inseparably tied to the success of the economy. Since the Great Recession, less than 1 percent of U.S. counties have contributed half of the "net establishment growth."

That number alone shows, according to the researchers, that economic recovery has not found its way to many parts of the country.

"We do not wish to be alarmist," they said. "Both trade and automation related economic growth are hallmarks of a vibrant economy. The findings of direct and indirect impacts of displacement are not homogenous across populations. The negative long-term impacts of displacement have been found to be worse for low-skilled, less-educated workers, who are likely to work in more vulnerable jobs."

Low-skill workers face a larger threat from automation than others, but foreign competition threatens both high-income and low-income jobs alike.

"As a work place is automated, it is unlikely that all occupation will be eliminated," the researchers said. "Rather, some jobs will be created, some will be destroyed, and others will be unaffected. For example the automation of an assembly plant might result in the loss of much of the workforce in assembly occupations, but it might result in an increase in the number of workers associated with operating and maintaining the assembly equipment. Management occupations may be mostly unaffected. In contrast, a plant that closes due to offshoring of production will lose all of the occupations within the factory, even if individual occupations are not readily offshorable."

The researchers provided a list of the most and least vulnerable occupations. It's not only blue-collar jobs that are at risk. Jobs like computer programming, statisticians and data entry keyers are all at risk.

Many of the safest jobs are in healthcare.

Ten most offshorable occupations

  1. Computer programmers
  2. Data entry keyers
  3. Electrical and electronics drafters
  4. Mechanical drafters
  5. Computer and information research scientists
  6. Actuaries
  7. Mathematicians
  8. Statisticians
  9. Mathematical science occupations
  10. Film and video editors

Ten most automatable occupations

  1. Data entry keyers
  2. Mathematical science occupations
  3. Telemarketers
  4. Insurance underwriters
  5. Mathematical technicians
  6. Hand sewers
  7. Tax preparers
  8. Photographic process workers and processing machine operators
  9. Library technicians
  10. Watch repairers

Ten least offshorable occupations

  1. Recreational therapists
  2. Emergency management directors
  3. First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers and repairers
  4. Mental health and substance abuse social workers
  5. Audiologists
  6. Healthcare social workers
  7. Occupational therapists
  8. Orthotrists and prosthetists
  9. Health technologists and technicians
  10. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons

Ten least automatable occupations

  1. Recreational therapists
  2. Emergency manage directors
  3. First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers and repairers
  4. Mental health and substance abuse social workers
  5. Audiologists
  6. Healthcare social workers
  7. Occupational therapists
  8. Orthotrists and prosthetists
  9. Health technologists and technicians
  10. Hearing aid specialists

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