Computerization and Employment

Immense technological progress has brought convenience and excitement to our lives as consumers. But it is also bringing about profound change for the employment prospects in many professions. We wonder: Which of the following professions is most at danger in the age of computerization over the next two decades?

A. Real estate agents
B. Accountants and auditors
C. Editors
D. Economists

A. Real estate agents is not correct.

For real estate agents, computerization presents a massive job threat. They face an 86% chance of job loss in the next 20 years, according to researchers at the University of Oxford. However, they are not at the greatest risk.

Real estate agents used to control access to critical information for potential home buyers, much like travel agents in the leisure industry. However, via online sales listings, the internet has revolutionized access to quality information in the real estate industry.

For all the talk of robots taking over manufacturing plants, real estate agents are at a considerably higher risk of job loss than machinists (65% chance of job loss). Nevertheless, computerization pose a threat to jobs in areas that wouldn’t seem like obvious targets.

Airline pilots – those who fly passengers and cargo – appear to be safe for now, with only an 18% chance of job loss. But commercial pilots — those who fly for other reasons, including rescue operations, firefighting, aerial photography and crop dusting – face a 55% chance of losing out to automation.

B. Accountants and auditors is correct.

Facing a 94% chance of job losses, accountants have a slightly higher probability of job loss than retail sales persons (92%). Only telemarketers (99%) are more at risk.

It has been a long time since a company’s “books” were actually that. The trend of computerized accounting systems has increased rapidly since the dawn of the Internet age.

Thanks to software developers, economic events can now be recorded as they happen and integrated into accounting records, without the need of accountants to analyze every single transaction.

Outside the business world, another traditional revenue stream for accountants is being threatened by do-it-yourself tax preparation programs that reduce the market for individual tax preparation.

C. Editors is not correct.

According to the Oxford University research team, editors have only a 6% chance that computerization will lead to job losses over the next two decades. This is surprising, given all the decades-long hype over artificial intelligence.

However, while computers’ ability to correct human error has improved significantly over the last decade, it is difficult for the programs to beat a good editor in terms of the analysis or organization of a document and content.

In comparison, word processers and typists face an 80% chance of job loss due to computerization. Editors do face a slightly higher probability of job loss due to computerization than dentists (4% are at risk), but their jobs are more safe than clergy (8%).

Amazingly, editors face better prospects to keep their jobs than firefighters (17%) and kindergarten teachers (15%).

D. Economists is not correct.

Unlike the case with editors, computerization will have significantly effects on the future employment prospects for economists. They face a 43% chance of job loss.

In fact, economists are predicted to be at more risk than actors — even as computerization in the movie and television industries have increased dramatically in the last decade.

Perhaps economists will fall victim to the big data trend, where sophisticated computers can aggregate and analyze massive quantities of data. Big data could theoretically be used to analyze economic phenomena, in a much more efficient manner than a traditional economist can.

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