Robots will eradicate teen jobs

Robots will eradicate teen jobs
Credit: Nicole Gray

The automation revolution is here and millions of human workers could be replaced by machines over the next decade. Most of us will adapt or find new positions, say the experts. But new research indicates the most vulnerable segment of the human workforce might be entry-level workers, such as teens seeking summer jobs. Flipping burgers might not be an option for the kids of tomorrow.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently conducted a study to determine what effect automation will have on the global human workforce. Rather than examine jobs by title, the researchers chose to compare them by particular skills, resulting in a more accurate analysis of vulnerability to automation.

Researchers Ljubica Nedelkoska and Glenda Quintini, who conducted the study, found that the youth workforce was particularly vulnerable to being entirely replaced by machines:

A striking novel finding is that the risk of automation is the highest among teenage jobs. The relationship between automation and age is U-shaped, but the peak in automatability among youth jobs is far more pronounced than the peak among senior workers. In this sense, automation is much more likely to result in youth unemployment, than in early retirements.

Unfortunately for those wishing to enter the workforce through entry-level, low-skill positions the competition is stiff. Robots are typically better suited for tasks that require little creativity or problem solving — and they’re much cheaper to employ in most cases.

In fact, taking a look on Will Robots Take My Job indicates most of the positions traditionally associated with teen workers or summer jobs are all but lost already:

  • Cashier: 97% probability of automation
  • Lifeguard: 67% probability of automation
  • Delivery driver: 98% probability of automation
  • Host/Hostess: 97% probability of automation
  • Waiter/Waitress: 94% probability of automation

It’s not all bad news for young people though, according to the researchers there’s plenty of reason for hope:

To some extent, this higher risk of automation may be countered by smoother transitions between jobs for young people compared to older individuals. In most countries, young people are better skilled than their older counterparts so they may find it easier to adapt to new jobs, including those created as a result of the introduction of new technologies.

The numbers tend to differ slightly from one study to the next, but one thing is clear: automation is going to replace a significant amount of human jobs.

Young people may be better suited to learning new things, but without a place to develop and practice those skills we’re going to have to come up with a new approach to developing young adults in the workforce.

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