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Being Deskilled by Technology: Losing Jobs to Computers

Computerized automation and software upgrades continue to push workers out of their jobs.  This phenomenon is now being called “deskilled”; i.e. If your job has been "deskilled", it means you’ve been replaced by technology. 

Computer man versus human worker imageA new report by one of the largest online placement agencies, CareerBuilder, says 25% of companies have replaced workers with technology in the last 18 months. Organizations with more than 500 employees report a higher deskill rate of 30%.

Researchers say while the technology is replacing many occupations, the replacement technology itself must have people to customize, maintain, and operate it; so, while companies are deskilling one position, they may be creating another position requiring new technology-related skills.  Yet, numbers show the correlation of jobs lost to jobs created is far below one-to-one.

In fact, the research shows overall one third of American occupations are experiencing a deceleration on the path to being replaced by other more rapidly growing technology-related occupations like web and software developers, market research analysts/specialists and management analysts.

Among those who have lost their jobs, 4 in 10 of these jobless are now classified as long-term unemployed because they have been actively looking for work for more than 27 weeks. The percent of long-term unemployed who are aged 50 and older is now at more than 30% of all unemployed who want to work.  Most of them report what they are experienced at doing is disappearing in the job market.

In an interesting twist, the report reveals that 35% of the firms who deskilled workers had to either hire them back or replace them because the technology did not work as promised, or the cost savings backfired when customers complained.

Jobs that are most in danger of being deskilled:

  • Customer Service  35%
  • Information Technology  33%
  • Accounting and Finance   32%
  • Assembly and Production   30%
  • Shipping and Distribution   25%
  • Sales   17%

Overall, the researchers say a marked transition is occurring that shows today’s workforce requirements will continue to be more deeply connected to technology, engineering, science, and math.  The question is, what kind of training and how long will it take to help deskilled workers re-enter the job market and at what economic cost?


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