Technology has made life easier and more comfortable in countless ways over the past few hundred years. But a relatively new brand of fear mongering suggests the workplace will soon become too easy, making some human workers obsolete.
The rise of robots in different industries has led some experts to predict that artificial intelligence will take over a third of all existing jobs in just ten years. But historical data just doesn't back that up. In fact, a U.K.-based study by economists at Deloitte, the world's largest consulting firm, found that technology is actually responsible for the creation of a significant number of jobs, across a variety of industries, over the past century and a half. Although some sectors have seen a decline—namely, agriculture and manufacturing—the results, as detailed in the Guardian, show a net gain.
Authors Ian Stewart, Debapratim De, and Alex Cole carefully combed through census data for England and Wales from 1871 through the present. Agricultural jobs dropped from 6.6 percent of the workforce in 1871 to just 0.2 percent today, while the rise of indoor plumbing and automatic washing machines has put a serious dent in the total number of washers and launderers. Other industries that saw a steep drop include weavers and knitters (down 79 percent), typists (down 57 percent), and secretaries (down 50 percent).
But these losses are minimal compared to the jobs created in service- and knowledge-based industries. On a large scale, the workforce has shifted from what the study calls "muscle power workers," to "caring professions," such as healthcare and education. And these increases far out-paced the declining careers. The segment of the workforce comprised of teachers and education assistants has increased 580 percent in the years studied. Jobs in welfare, housing, youth and community workers have grown by 183 percent. And the number of care workers and home carers is up 168 percent.
These growing industries aren't the only things driving job creation. As technology improved, certain necessities have become easier to produce, driving down the price of basics like food and household items. In fact, a study earlier this year found that people spend a smaller percentage of their income on groceries than ever before. This, in turn, leaves people with comparatively more money to spend on luxuries, allowing that market—and the workforce necessary to sustain it—to blossom. This has led to a rise in jobs in the hospitality industry (the study found there are four times as many bartenders today than in the 1950s) and grooming (the study used hairdressers as an example).
Of course, there's no telling what will happen in the future, especially with technology advancing at ever-increasing speeds. But history seems to suggest that humans will be plenty busy for years to come.
Take that, robots.
[h/t The Guardian]