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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Technology has and will continue to destroy jobs. But it will also create new ones that expand jobs in industries that already exist. So where will the jobs of the future be? Who will be the winners and losers from future growth? The next generation is preparing for the job market. So for them, the answers to these questions are critical. Let’s look, first, at jobs that may disappear. It’s a fact that many jobs have been replaced by digital technology. Can you think of any? ATMs, for instance, have reduced the number of bank tellers. And self-checkout in supermarkets have also reduced staff numbers.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds But while these jobs begin to disappear, staff are still needed for tasks technology can’t handle, such as providing customer service in banks and monitoring theft at self-checkouts in supermarkets. When businesses increase their profits due to new technology, these profits can be reinvested and create new jobs, and usually better ones too. Does any modern day executive assistant want to go back to the typing pool? Does any accountant want to trade in their spreadsheet software for their handheld calculator and paper? So what of the future? Some people worry that it will be different because the highly-skilled professional jobs will be at risk. You’ve probably heard of artificial intelligence, also known as AI. Let’s consider the effect this will have.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds This advanced, robotic technology can compute vast amounts of data and reach outcomes and decisions far more quickly than humans. It’s predicted that, within the next decade, this technology will replace 50% of all jobs. Which jobs are we talking about? It’s the highly-skilled professional jobs that require a lot of route data processing, such as lawyers, educators, medical professionals, accountants, and jobs in transport that are at great risk of being replaced by AI. This will be in addition to low-skilled jobs such as those in manufacturing, and some retail jobs that will continue to be replaced. So which jobs might be safe? Jobs requiring non-routine work may be relatively untouched by AI, and the job profile may even expand.

Skip to 2 minutes and 28 seconds Examples are jobs in aged care, customer service, human resource advice, and counselling. So how can the next generation prepare for this changing job market? What about those students who are relying on their education to land a job? Qualifications, in the past, were always a good job ticket. But students will now need additional capabilities. Because, with disruptive innovation like artificial intelligence, education is no longer, by itself, automatic protection against such changes. Universities have, in recent years, grappled intensely with the question of how to promote the employability of graduates and how to educate students for the future world of work. Will graduates with skills such as digital literacy, communication, and data analytics be the winners from disruptive digital innovation?

Skip to 3 minutes and 21 seconds Or will the need soft capabilities such as creativity, resilience and empathy? A safe answer, would be all of these. Let’s take a wander through Griffith University and find a lecturer who can tell us more.

Skip to 3 minutes and 39 seconds Hi. I’m Dr. Katherine Hunt. And I’m a lecturer in the Griffith Business School. So AI is coming whether or not we like it. Most of the jobs in the world will have to change. They will be completely obsolete, and new jobs will emerge. I teach in the Masters of Financial Planning. And it is a profession that I want to make obsolete-proof for my students. And one way I do this is by focusing on those skills and on the knowledge and the application of that knowledge that an AI-enhanced robot can’t do. So people are always going to want a high-level professional to sit down with them face-to-face and tangibly communicate complex topics tailored for their situation.

Skip to 4 minutes and 23 seconds So I’ve adapted my teaching and assessment to actually make sure that students are equipped. Practicing these skills ensures that my students, into the long term, are not obsolete as AI pushes the rest of the professions off a cliff. The best defence that universities, supported through government policy, could provide university graduates entering the labour market in 2018 and beyond, is the capabilities and skills to make it easier to rapidly transition to new jobs. Job training that is too specifically targeted to what may or may not be jobs of the future is fraught with risk. As they say, prediction is hard, especially about the future.

Future winners and losers

In this video we look at how technology has and will continue to destroy jobs, but also how it will create new ones and expand jobs in industries that already exist. From this we might begin to have insight into who will be the winners and losers from future growth.

Watch the video and then let’s look in more detail at specific examples that show us the impact technology has had on jobs.

ATMS (Automatic teller machines)

With the introduction of ATM machines, we saw some bank tellers lose their jobs. In the U.S. in 1988 banks had on average 20 bank tellers per branch. By 2004 this number had dropped to 13. While it doesn’t sound like good news for bank tellers, on the flip side the number of bank branches rose by 43% over the same period which increased the number of bank employees who were needed for tasks such as sales, advice and customer service that an ATM could not do.

Find out more: Automation and Anxiety

Supermarket self-checkouts

How about self-service at supermarket checkouts? It would seem that supermarkets can cut costs by not having to employ as many staff at the checkout points. However, according to research this doesn’t lower staff numbers and there are indirect costs with more theft and reduced customer satisfaction leading to less loyalty. The result? Most staff are employed to monitor the theft and keep customers happy.

Find out more: The Economics of Self-Service Check-outs

The key point

Businesses introduce new technology not just because it’s there, but because it is profitable to do so. Higher profits don’t just disappear into thin air. They generate jobs through various channels: - some profit is usually retained in the business for re-investment and expansion - some profit is paid to shareholders who spend, save and/or invest - some profit is paid as taxes to government who spend it back into society.

The net effect throughout history has always been a net increase in job creation, and the new jobs are usually better ones.

Your Task

Why do you think businesses introduce new technology? Is it always good for both business and consumers? Give two examples in the discussion below that we haven’t looked at yet.

You might also like to read the articles listed below in the ‘see also’ section.


Automation and anxiety. (2016) Retrieved from: https://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21700758-will-smarter-machines-cause-mass-unemployment-automation-and-anxiety

Mortimer, G & Dootson, P. (2017). The economics of self-service checkouts. Retrieved from: https://theconversation.com/the-economics-of-self-service-checkouts-78593

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Exploring Economics: Will the Next Generation Be Worse Off?

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