Automation in the Workplace— Lost Jobs or New Jobs? Using automated machines, a modern factory can produce hundreds of baseball bats each day. In the 1800s, the first makers of baseball bats spent long days carving bats by hand. In a modern American factory, batmaking machines can produce a much larger number of bats in a shorter time. Since ancient times, people have invented machines to help with their work. Today, factories can use automated machines to perform jobs that are difficult, dangerous, or even just boring. Like science-fiction robots, these machines can do a whole series of different tasks. But if a machine does work instead of a person, then someone loses a job. How can society use machines to make work easier and more productive without some people losing their chance to work? The Issues What Are the Effects of Automation? New machines replace some jobs, but they also can create jobs. Suppose an automobile factory starts using machines instead of people to paint cars. At first, some workers may lose their jobs. But the factory may be able to produce more cars. Then it may need to hire more workers—to handle old tasks as well as some new ones. New jobs are created for people who are educated and skilled in operating and taking care of the new machines. Still, some workers whose skills are no longer needed lose their jobs. Some may find work in different jobs for less money. Others may be unable to find new jobs. Can society provide people who are out of work with the skills they need to start a new career? What Can People Do? Carving a single bat with a lathe can take several hours. Education programs can train young people for new jobs and teach older workers new skills. Those who learn how to use computers and other new technologies can take on new tasks. Learning how to sell or design a product can also prepare workers for new careers. Workers who have lost jobs can train for different types of work that cannot be done by machines. For example, a machine cannot replace human skill in day care or medical care. Who Should Pay? Teaching young people how to work in new kinds of jobs costs money. So do training programs for adult workers who have lost jobs. How could society pay for these costs? Businesses might share some of the costs. Some businesses give workers full pay until they are retrained or find new work. Also, the government might provide unemployment pay or training for jobless workers. Then all taxpayers would share the costs. 1. Identify the Problem Describe in your own words the benefits and drawbacks of workplace automation. 2. Analyze the Options List ways society could deal with the effects of automation. For each plan, give the benefits and drawbacks and tell how it would be paid for. 3. Find a Solution The owner of the pizza shop in your neighborhood has bought an automated pizza-making system. Make a plan for the shop to use the system without having to fire workers.
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