Increased automation guarantees a bleak outlook for Trump’s promises to coal miners
President Trump has made empty promises to make the coal industry great again, vowing to reverse decades of the industry’s downward employment trajectory. In previous blog posts, we have shown how his promises to put coal miners back to work will be a tall order. Here, we introduce another reason why coal will face an uphill battle: automation. The problem facing the coal industry is not unique: Automation is rapidly reducing employment in mining and manufacturing. Automation has been eating into coal jobs over a long period of time-years before concerns about climate change led to the environmental regulations that President Trump solely blames for the industry’s decline. Nationwide, employment in the coal mining industry peaked in 1920, when it employed roughly 785,000 people. At the same time, coal mining productivity jumped from 1.93 short tons per miner hour in 1980 to 6.28 short tons per miner hour in 2015. One of the early harbingers of automation in coal mining was the shift from underground coal mines in the Appalachian region to the open pit mines of the West. Surface mining-also known as mountaintop removal mining, in which miners use controlled explosions to open mountains and mine the newly exposed coal seams-is less labor-intensive and more automated than traditional underground mining. Between 1980 and 2015, underground mining’s share of total coal production dropped from 41-35 percent, while surface mining production increased from 59-65 percent. Coal companies in the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming can extract more than 11 times as much coal per employee hour as coal companies in the Appalachian Basin. In the next decade, the coal mining industry will likely lose even more jobs to automation. The IISD report concludes that automation is likely to replace 40-80 percent of workers in a mine, with newer mines and those with many years of life left most susceptible to automation. In the end, coal workers’ faith in President Trump doesn’t matter much: coal jobs are not coming back. Both the federal and state governments should invest heavily in public education and retraining programs that would enable coal workers to find new career paths outside the coal mining industry.
Forrester Predicts That AI-enabled Automation Will Eliminate 9% of US Jobs In 2018
A new Forrester Research report, Predictions 2018: Automation Alters The Global Workforce, outlines 10 predictions about the impact of AI and automation on jobs, work processes and tasks, business success and failure, and software development, cybersecurity, and regulatory compliance. We will see a surge in white-collar automation, half a million new digital workers in the US, and a shift from manual to automated IT and data management. “Companies that master automation will dominate their industries,” Forrester says. Automation will eliminate 9% of US jobs but will create 2% more. In 2018, 9% of US jobs will be lost to automation, partly offset by a 2% growth in jobs supporting the “Automation economy.” Specifically impacted will be back-office and administrative, sales, and call center employees. A wide range of technologies, from robotic process automation and AI to customer self-service and physical robots will impact hiring and staffing strategies as well as create a need for new skills. A political automation backlash will briefly impede progress-and lose. The hot-button political issue of automation will accelerate in 2018 as workers realize nearly all jobs will be affected. Automation will win regardless-because its economic value outweighs any political resistance. Forrester recommends investing in change management internally and PR externally. In 2018, RPA-based digital workers will replace and/or augment 311,000 office and administrative positions and 260,000 sales and related positions. Digital Transformation spending will emphasize automation. 2018 will recast automation as a prime enabler of the customer experience, one that uses voice and chat interaction and is backed by AI building blocks that follow conversation and intent, make decisions, resolve exceptions, complete transactions, and remove simple, standardized tasks from human work. Enterprises will invest in broad automation efforts such as automation centers of excellence that span business units. Many large organizations have already invested in continuous delivery release automation to drive the deployment of applications within production environments.
Over 30% of All American Jobs to Be Lost to Automation by 2030, Says New Study
Maybe your worries about having a robotic overlord are not warranted in the short term, but losing a job to a robot might be a fact of life that’s just around the corner. A new study predicts that up to a third of all American jobs will be lost to automation within the next 13 years. The study by McKinsey Global Institute, a think tank that specializes in business and economics, says that nearly 70 million U.S. workers would have to find new occupations by 2030. People would need retraining or enter completely new fields, concludes the report’s co-author, Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute. “We believe that everyone will need to do retraining over time,” he said, according to the Washington Post. The researchers believe the coming changes will affect people across different career levels. By 2030, the demand for office workers, including anyone involved in administrative tasks, should fall by 20%, predict the researchers. Up to 30% of the people in jobs requiring “Predictable physical work” like in construction or the food industry, for example, could lose their jobs as well. Jobs that require creativity or more human interaction, like being a lawyer, manager, a doctor or a teacher would be less under the knife from automation, think the scientists. There could also be new type of jobs in supporting the technology that will arise. The scientists say that up to 800 billion employees perform “Technically automatable activities” and will find themselves out of that work by 2030. On the flip side, the researchers say up to 280 million new jobs could be created from increased spending on consumer goods and another 85 million jobs from more spending on health and education. The authors see the looming transformation akin to what happened in the United States and Europe in the early 1900s, when global industry switched from farming to factory work. They do not want to scare people but rather prepare for an inevitable transition, especially highlighting the need for mass retraining. You can learn more about the study and read it here.