The Cost of Efficiency

Automated Out of Existence

U.S. companies have become far more efficient in the way they operate their businesses. Investments in automation have borne fruit. The S&P 500 hit an all time high this year as the longest bull market in history continues. Products and services are becoming cheaper and it’s easier for consumers to make purchases. Much of the business processes that formerly required human intervention have been replaced with technology. Customer service representatives, for better or worse, are now “chat bots,” engineers work alongside machines on the factory floor, and heavy lifting in fulfillment centers is done by robots. All this automation comes at a steep price: human jobs. Is the cost of efficiency justified?

Wage Stagnation

Market investors and company executives have benefited enormously from business automation. Stratospheric stock prices and generous compensation packages have minted many millionaires this past decade. However, those on the lower rungs of the corporate hierarchy haven’t shared in the spoils. Companies are battling to stay competitive, which is why so much is being invested into automation that, over the long run, will cut the costs of their operations. Unskilled workers, or company employees without the pedigree or experience needed to fill white collar jobs, are suffering as a result of these investments.

Many of these struggles are voiced by workers in the manufacturing and retail fields. Robots are now permanent fixtures on the assembly line. Brick and mortar retail stores are going digital. The shifting industrial landscape prevents these unskilled workers from switching jobs, as they don’t have the right skill sets to do so. Increased automation also decreases employers’ dependence on unskilled labor. Therefore, unskilled workers have poorer bargaining positions and, as a result, receive stagnant wages.

The Threat to Skilled Workers

Workers in financial services, legal, and even medical fields are finding that their skills are growing obsolete. Software is used to review large pools of data that formerly required a paralegal. Diagnoses are now made by technology programs that formerly required a doctor. Financial products are sold to investors online, rather than by a broker over the phone. As more and more jobs are automated, we will see an uptick in unemployment. Critics of this argument state that just as many, if not more, jobs will be created as automation increases. However, most of the jobs created as a result of automation won’t have the skilled workers needed to fill them.

Upskill, Beg, or Revolt?

Workers must take it upon themselves to develop the skills necessary for the jobs of the future. We cannot rely on the government to train the masses about new technology when senators don’t even understand the effect technology has on the population. Online training courses, books, and bootcamps are all worthwhile investments of time and money in better securing your future employability. A more likely alternative that many will take is government welfare. Upskilling is hard compared to filling out a welfare registration form. The easy route may prove treacherous, though, as the increased number of government dependents will shrink the pool of money to dispense. If this pool dries up, you can expect revolts.

Preparing for the Future

Worker displacement poses an enormous threat to the future of our country. It is not too late to act. Companies can invest in training prospective workers on the skills they need to fill job openings. It’s a fair price to pay for the cost of efficiency. Governments can wake up to the fact that this problem will not solve itself. We, as preppers, need to continue to train ourselves the skills necessary to stay employable. I can only hope that the masses take it upon themselves to act. Otherwise, things may very well take a dark turn.

Want to talk more about worker displacement and the cost of efficiency? Leave a comment or contact me.

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