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article imageA.I. and digital tools invading U.S. jobs at all skill levels

By Karen Graham     Nov 15, 2017 in Technology
With the growing use of artificial intelligence and digital tools in the workplace, very few occupations will be left unaffected. Most surprising is the striking uptick in lower-skilled jobs requiring digital tools.
In a study released Wednesday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, the use of digital tools has increased dramatically since 2002. The study covered 545 occupations, 90 percent of all jobs, finding digital tools are now part of 517 jobs. The study also showed a dramatic increase in digital tools being used in low-skill jobs.
While the current era of digital transformation has increased the potential for higher paying jobs, and improved workplace efficiency and customer service, this transition may also be contributing to a number of negative impacts, particularly in the disparities seen in worker salaries and metropolitan economies.
Changing face of labor
Based on data from the U.S. Department of Labor, which assigns a rating of zero to 100 to each occupation, reflecting the amount of digital technology required to do the job, the average score for all occupations rose from 29 in 2002 to 46 in 2016, a 59 percent increase.
Employees have a new responsibilities in digital transformation.
Employees have a new responsibilities in digital transformation.
Pexels / Burst
It may come as no surprise that the jobs with the greatest digital content tended to pay more and were concentrated in traditional high-tech centers, like Silicon Valley, Seattle, Washington, and Austin, Texas. Higher-paying service jobs have long required the use of digital tools and this continues to grow. However, some occupations, with little or no digital content have now become far more likely to require those skills.
Here's an excellent example of the growth of digital tools in the workplace. Warehouse workers had a score of 5.0 in 2002, yet in 2016, the score had jumped to 26. This is because warehouse workers now use handheld devices to track inventories and devices on packages that sound an alarm if the package is placed in the wrong truck.
“What we found is that the more digital a job is, on balance the better the pay — and also the less chance there is for a total displacement of your job,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings and co-author of the report.
Toronto s talent is booming.
Toronto's talent is booming.
Digitalization and metropolitan economies
Looking at the top 100 metropolitan areas where digitalization has seen the biggest increase since 2002, the study found that both metropolitan areas’ current wage levels and recent wage growth appear to be highly correlated with mean digitalization scores, which are tightly linked (though not identical) to education levels
San Jose, San Francisco, and Washington dominate this distribution, with their very high digital scores correlating with average wage levels of $64,000 a year or more. Yet in Las Vegas; Bakersfield, Calif.; and Riverside, Calif., metro areas with digital scores in the mid-30s, the average salary is $45,000 or below. This could possibly reflect the use of differing technologies.
The study authors point out the influence of digitalization on regional prosperity: variations in the digital skills of the local workforce may be contributing to the polarization of cities’ economic fortunes. So while digitalization does have economic benefits for many metropolitan areas, there is also a widening wage gap that is also creating a divide between cities and companies that have embraced digital transformation and those who have been slow to join.
the advantages of women owning their own business or being self-employed allows them more flexibilit...
the advantages of women owning their own business or being self-employed allows them more flexibility. This is especially so for women raising families and being the primary bread-winner.
Race, ethnicity, and gender
Caucasians (65 percent of the workforce) remain overrepresented in high-level digital occupational groups, such as engineering and management, as well as medium-level digital areas such as business and finance, the arts, and legal and education professions.
On the other hand, African Americans (12 percent of the workforce) are overrepresented in medium-digital occupations such as office and administrative support, community and social service, as well as low-digital level jobs such as transportation, personal care and building and grounds maintenance.
Hispanics (17 percent of the workforce) are significantly underrepresented in high-level digital technical, business and finance occupational groups, and somewhat underrepresented in medium-level legal, sales, and education positions.
Women, who actually have a slightly higher digital score than men, represent about three-quarters of the workforce in many of the largest medium-digital occupational groups, such as healthcare, office administration, and education. Men, on the other hand, continue to dominate the highest-level digital occupations, such as computer, engineering, and management fields, as well as lower-digital occupations such as transportation, construction, natural resources, and building and grounds occupations.
Factory Automation with industrial robots for palletizing food products replace human workers. But m...
Factory Automation with industrial robots for palletizing food products replace human workers. But more technical skill sets are needed to operate the machines.
KUKA Roboter GmbH, Bachmann
Conclusions and recommendations
The advent of digital tools in the workplace won't totally replace workers' jobs — If anything, they will make many jobs easier and more efficient, increasing productivity. And while the future may remain uncertain in light of how fast digital transformation is taking place, without a doubt, businesses will require workers with the technical and digital skills needed to do the job.
Even though Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has outlined that technology does not increase or reduce jobs, but only increases wages, that same technology will need skilled workers trained to handle those digital tools.
More about Workforce, Artificial intelligence, digitl tools, low skills, Job training
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