From The New York Times:
Our mental image of job-killing automation is robots in factories or warehouses. But the next jobs to disappear are probably ones that are a much bigger part of most people’s daily lives: retail workers and cashiers in stores and restaurants.
For a long time, economists argued that routine jobs like factory and clerical work were vulnerable to automation but that jobs in both the service and knowledge sectors were safer. They require human skills that are hard for machines to imitate, like judgment and adaptability. These skills are useful when an executive makes strategic business decisions or when a chef fries one customer’s egg and scrambles another’s.
But it has become increasingly clear that parts of every job will be automated — and that the service sector is next. Although certain service jobs like health aide or preschool teacher still seem safe, others, like those in retail and food service, are already being displaced. It’s not hard to teach a machine to do routine tasks like scanning bar codes, stocking shelves or dunking fries in oil.
Eight million people, 6 percent of American workers, are retail salespeople and cashiers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cashier jobs are expected to grow 2 percent by 2024, significantly slower than 7 percent job growth over all, and technology is the main reason, according to the bureau.
Half the time worked by salespeople and cashiers is spent on tasks that can be automated by technology that’s currently in use, according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report. Two-thirds of the time on tasks done by grocery store workers can be automated, it said. Another report, by Forrester, estimated that a quarter of the tasks salespeople do would be automated this year, and 58 percent by 2020.
. . . .
Look no further than the Amazon Go store. It has no cashiers or checkout lines. People scan their phones to enter, and sensors with computer vision monitor what they put in their carts. When they leave, they are automatically charged for what they have bought. Amazon calls it “just walk out technology.”
. . . .
Lowe’s stores in California have customer service robots that roam the aisles to answer customers’ questions and monitor inventory. The Eatsa chain of restaurants has no human workers in sight. Customers order on store iPads or on their phones, and pick up their meals from a cubby that shows their name. Several fast-food chains, including McDonald’s and Panera, also use digital kiosks for customers to order and pay by themselves.
. . . .
Amazon said it had no plans to lay off Whole Foods workers or use Amazon Go technology to automate cashiers’ jobs.
Link to the rest at The New York Times
PG notes that, of course, the headline uses Amazon as a hook although this is a trend that has been happening for at least a couple of years in fast food restaurants and elsewhere. It’s been some time since PG has been in a large grocery store that doesn’t have a group of self-checkout scanners. Ditto for Walmart, Target, etc.
PG could find no reference to various campaigns to raise the minimum wage to $15 which are happening in various cities and states. He suggests that every increase in the cost of employing people improves the return from investments in automation of service jobs.