Scott Gilmore writes in Macleans about companies returning manufacturing operations to North America (“re-shoring”). And bringing their robots with them.
He discusses jobs, and then moves on to larger topics about employment itself.
Automation has been changing human labour ever since the huge migration of farm workers to cities following the introduction of the tractors, combines and harvesters that replaced farm labour.
Historically, new types of demand and related new job types have emerged, with successful transitions going to those who become life-long-learners.
But automation marches on, faster and faster, with little end in sight, and no regard for the colour of your collar. Mr. Gilmore discusses truck drivers’ fragile future. It is becoming clear that certain semi-professional jobs are under siege, such as writing routine media stories (e.g. market and sports reports), legal research and preparation of simple legal documents. Even some professional fields such as diagnosing ailments will (at least) change with the introduction of automated assistants.
It seems that job market disruptions will only spread and increase, leaving problems for educators and policy-makers. And when the factories come home, not many jobs will come with them.
Says Mr. Gilmore:
But the real driver behind re-shoring is automation. A robot in Mississauga, Ont., costs just as much as a robot in Shenzhen. And that is the bad news. Manufacturers are moving robotic jobs, not human ones, back to North American shores.
The bad news doesn’t end there. This rise in automation has only just begun and is going to change far more than the manufacturing sector. With the growth of machine learning and artificial intelligence, job losses will not be limited to assembly lines. The service industry, office administration, computer programming, and many other sectors are all on the cusp of automation.
Tesla’s Fremont Model S factory: