The New York Times ran an article
about a switchboard operator who had worked
almost 50 years before retiring and how her job has become nearly
obsolete. Human computers date as
far back as the 17th century. It’s estimated that their jobs
finally became obsolete in the 1970s. It can take a long time for a
job to fully disappear.
Indeed, some jobs will be replaced as a
result of technological advancement and automation. Some jobs will
become obsolete. Jobs might disappear from one geography, only to
rise in another due to global outsourcing. Some jobs dwindle to
small numbers and remain in existence in an artisanal or craft sense. As such, answering the
question of what jobs won’t be around 10 years from now is not easy
to answer. But let’s take a stab at it.
A Local Perspective
Here are cases of jobs that likely won’t
exist in my local economy 10 years from now (but they might exist
elsewhere in the world or in an artisanal sense):
- Handmade furniture maker. There is a local business I
know of that churns out vintage replicas, each one made by hand.
They also produce handmade custom furniture direct-to-consumer and
on commission for commercial purposes (including reality TV!)
Compared to mass-produced, factory-made furniture, demand is
relatively low and the business does not create very many new
- Umbrella manufacturer and retailer. After 82 years and
three generations of management, an umbrella manufacturer and
consumer retail business in Vancouver is closing its doors. But
here is a tale of business models and relevance. It’s sister
company, founded around the same time, went the route of umbrella
distribution and corporate supplier of suppliers — it continues to
- Bank tellers and cashiers. Mobile banking and electronic
fund transfers are eliminating the paper trail for banking
transactions and one day we will never need to walk into a bank to
carry out day-to-day activities in person (that day could be today,
except for some reason, I still have to process checks/cheques in
person at the bank, especially when it’s cross-currency).
- Travel agents. In the United States, the number of travel agents
dropped from 124,000 in 2000 to 74,000 in 2014. At
that rate, it is conceivable that all travel agent jobs will
disappear in 10 years. Booking travel will be entirely through
digital online platforms and the activity of booking travel will be
performed directly by travellers themselves or by virtual
assistants (I was about to type personal assistants and replaced it
with virtual assistants).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has a
great searchable database, with predictions about jobs in decline, fastest
growing, as well as specific occupations.