Though companies have been looking to make some jobs automated by drone or other technology for a while, a new report shows that Black and Latino workers are more likely to be replaced. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, job automation has accelerated and the economic fallout in Black and Latino communities has been disproportionately greater.
According to a report by CNBC, during times of economic decline, automation is more sought after by companies looking to cut expenses. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing guidelines “has caused an acceleration of some labor trends like automation,” Karen Fichuk, CEO of Ranstad North America told the outlet. Fichuk added that people looking to get work may need to enhance their skill sets in the future. “What we’re seeing is this significant need for massive up-skilling and retraining, especially for workers who have been laid off.”
A report by The Brookings Institution found that Black and Latino workers may be the most impacted by automation.
“These workers are more likely to be employed in jobs that are at high risk of being automated in the next two decades and that cannot be done remotely,” the report says. “Of the five occupations that employ the highest number of Black and Latino workers, four have experienced the highest losses during the pandemic: retail salespersons, cashiers, cooks, and waiters and waitresses.”
Kristen Broady, the lead author’s report told the news outlet the reason for the increased likelihood is because “Black and Latino workers are overrepresented in 11 and 13 respectively of the 30 jobs that employ the most workers in the US that are at high risk of being significantly changed or eliminated due to automation.”
The jobs with the highest risk include those that have repetitive tasks associated with them.
“People who are employed in jobs that entail a single, repetitive task like toll booth operators who collect money and provide change, are already being replaced by automated vehicle identification electronic toll collection systems,” Broady explained. Production and manufacturing jobs are also among those at risk.
To address the potential loss from automation, experts recommend skills training.
“Labor organizations can encourage companies to provide workforce training so that employees can work with automation instead of being replaced by it,” Broady said. “Automation will create a need for new tasks, for workers who can develop, program and work with various types of automated technology if they have the necessary training and skills.”
Labor unions are reportedly working to get this type of training to workers through negotiations. “We bargain to get a fair share for workers. But society as a whole doesn’t have that,” Richard Trumka, President of AFL-CIO told the outlet. “Technology can either lessen or increase the trajectory of inequality.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that Black and Latino workers are increasing their union membership, which in turn may help in getting skills training to as many people as possible.
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