Pew: U.S. workers counter automation threat with education, new skills

The future of work in 2050 looks gloomy, according to workers who responded to recent Pew research about the future of work in the automated workplace. About half (49%) believe that workers will have less job security by the year 2050. When asked about employee benefits, 41% believe that they will be worse than they currently are now, and 36% think they will be about the same.

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On both these trends, men are more pessimistic than women, and Democrats more negatives than Republicans. African-Americans and Latinos tend to see things more positively.

Little value seen in automation

U.S. workers don’t see much to be gained in automation. Almost half (48%) think advances in automation has “mostly hurt” American workers, and 28% believe they have neither helped nor hurt.

The older a person is, the more they are likely to think automation has hurt workers.

Among the people who think in the near future that robots will do many of the jobs that people once did, 40% responded that this will be “someone bad,” and 29% responded that this will be “very bad.”

Strangely, many workers don’t think the robots will come for their own jobs: 24% say this definitely won’t happen, and 38% say it probably won’t. One-quarter, however, say it probably will.

Lower-income workers and workers with no college experience are more likely to believe their work will be taken over by robots or computers in the next 30 years. As a result, 3 in 4 (76%) of Americans think the inequality between the rich and poor will increase if robots and computers take over the jobs currently performed by humans.

And there is little optimism that the economy will create new, better-paying jobs in the wake of automation: 66% doubt that will be the case.

There is some hope: workers see protection against automation in learning new skills; they see this as a responsibility to take on themselves, through education, and not something that will come from the government or their own employers. Almost 40% say the education system is responsible over the next 30 years to make sure American workers have the right skills and training to get the right job that presumably won’t be stolen by robots. Another 39% say it’s the individuals’ responsibility. Whatever the way, American workers will find a way to adapt, as they always have.


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