POSTED BY MARTIN KICH
This chart is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
The list is surprising in the following ways:
Of the 30 occupations on the list, 22 are what are traditionally considered “blue-collar” occupations.
Of those 22 “blue-collar” occupations, all have been major sources of employment for decades: 7 are in general business areas and sales, 6 are related to health care, 3 to the restaurant industry, 3 are in cleaning and maintenance, and 3 are in the fields most conventionally cited as important to “middle-class” prosperity—construction, the trades, truck driving.
Noticeably, but not surprisingly missing from the “blue-collar” occupations is manufacturing.
Although many of the 22 occupations are low-paying, employment in a surprisingly large number of them—even the majority of them–is projected to be severely impacted by automation over the next quarter century.
Among the 8 “white collar” jobs, there are also few surprises, 5 are in management, finance, and accounting, 2 are computer-related, and 1 is in health care.
Surprisingly, employment in at least two of these occupations is also expected to be significantly impacted by automation in the next quarter century.
Of the 30 occupations, only 3 are in STEM or STEM-related fields.
So this chart seems, most broadly, to highlight two issues:
First, how does one educate people for a seemingly inevitable, massive shift in employment opportunities that has not yet manifested itself in any sort of wholesale way across our economy and that will be as difficult to predict in its specific impacts as in its actual timetable?
Second, since the workers most readily able to adjust to this shift will be the most highly educated, how are we preparing for a future in which the least educated—who are still the majority of U.S. workers–may have the most constricted employment opportunities, even in low-paying occupations?
Both of these issues are as profound as they are complex. And they are clearly not being addressed when the national political focus—or at least the rhetorical emphasis–is on putting coal miners back to work and pumping more oil.