Automation in the Workplace— Lost Jobs or New Jobs?

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.