Job Security and Automation

The popular new movie La La Land opens with a hundred or so Hollywood hopefuls dancing and singing their dreams of becoming the next stars of stage and screen. Ignoring the competition for limited jobs, the poor average pay, and the instability of employment – in other words, the future – their minds are worlds away from thinking about what employment opportunities will look like in the future.

A now-famous study from the University of Oxford reported that nearly half of U.S employment may be subject to computerization. Fortunately for those prospective actors, their profession scored only a 37 percent probability of being automated, considered a moderate risk. Authors of the study estimated that about 47 percent of total U.S. employment is at high risk.

The U.S. Department of Labor produces a report for nearly 1400 occupation titles, including their hourly and annual wages. The highest paid are primarily in health/medical fields, including physicians, surgeons, dentists, psychologists. Technical fields, such as petroleum engineers, physicists, and computer scientists, are also in the top pay categories. Both groups are among those least likely to be automated according to the Oxford study.

And both groups represent highly educated sectors of the work force. Educational attainment is a measure of the success of a nation’s commitment to a progressive economy and society. A survey evaluating success in educational attainment at the national level is taken on a three-year cycle by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Testing in 2015 included half a million 15-year-olds in 72 countries, and covered science, mathematics, reading, collaborative problem solving and financial literacy. Results were published in December 2016 by Business Insider.

Asian countries dominate the list of highest-ranking scores for educational attainment. Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea are among the top performers in all three test categories, math, reading and science. Finland, Canada, German, Ireland, Belgium and Netherlands are the top-ranking western countries. Estonia and Slovenia are the highest ranked Eastern European countries. All these countries rank well above the United States in all three categories, and above the United Kingdom in math and reading.

These income and education rankings recognize the high-income ($125,000+) cognitive jobs less threatened by automation. Some job categories with less than one percent likelihood of automation have average annual pay in a middle pay range of $50,000 – $60,000. Examples are lodging managers and elementary school teachers. Several job categories at the lower end of the wage range are less threatened by automation. Preschool teachers, childcare workers, hairdressers and concierges fall below twenty percent likelihood of automation, but have average annual pay between $22,000 and $32,000.

By the way, those Hollywood hopefuls at the beginning of the new movie who had a 37 percent probability of automation: their average hourly pay was reported to be $37.47. No annual pay was reported because actors do not generally work full-time year-round. Judging by the song they were singing, that is not a concern. They were joyfully singing “Another Day of Sun.”

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