Robots Are Already Taking Some of Our Jobs. Here’s Who’s Most Vulnerable

Robotic mechanical arm is pouring chemical tubes full with blue substance in a medical laboratory during a test.
Cylonphoto/Getty Images

The robot revolution is upon us, folks, and those cold, calculating machines are already snapping up U.S. jobs and wages.

A new Pew Research Center study is chock full of statistics about just how much Americans fear automation.

But one stunning statistic truly stands out: 6% of workers have already lost their jobs or have experienced diminished hours thanks to robots. That’s about 9.3 million people if you consider the current employment situation in the country.

Ouch. It’s no wonder the study found 72% of people are worried about a future in which robots can do many jobs, as opposed to the others who are enthusiastic about the notion. (WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?)

Pizza Hut may have a robot waiter, but this is happening sooner than we thought.

Robots Are Taking Aim at Young People’s Jobs

If you dig a little deeper into the numbers, something pretty surprising sticks out: Older workers aren’t the ones bearing the brunt of automation — it’s mostly young workers. You know, the dang millennials who are obsessed with having technology in the palm of their hands.

Ironic, eh?

Roughly 11% of those surveyed between the ages of 17 and 25 said they had hours reduced because of a robot worker, computer program or other machine. And 6% said they had lost their job due to new technology.

“Although they comprise a relatively small share of the population, these workers who have been impacted by automation express strongly negative views about the current — and future — impact of technology on their own careers,” the Pew report states.

Still, the study also found a sort of not-my-problem hubris, with 70% of respondents saying it was not likely that automation would take their job.

Don’t Freak Out Just Yet About Robots Taking Jobs

We don’t want to be too alarmist, because there is evidence that the nature of work will simply evolve over the next decade, leaving room for meatbags to continue dominating the workforce.

In fact, a report from Dell and the Institute for the Future finds that 85% of the jobs humans will do by 2030 haven’t been invented yet.

And if you happen to have a career in health care (an awesome field for those with just an associate degree), education or legal services, your job is likely safe from robots.

But here at The Penny Hoarder, we always want you to be better safe than sorry.

What You Can Do When Robots Come Knocking for Your Job

Retail jobs are unfortunately some of the most vulnerable to automation, according to a 2013 Oxford University study.

But if you find yourself on the losing end of a robot-human career showdown in that sector, there are several steps you can take to make sure you are compensated, and earn some extra cash to cover your bills while you hunt for a new job.

In the meantime, you can also tap into a few resources to help you find the skills you need to compete as the economy evolves. These include your local workforce training organization, community colleges or technical schools, labor unions and even your neighborhood library.

From a public policy standpoint, economists and Silicon Valley CEOs have expressed support for a universal basic income — a guaranteed level of income paid to everyone in society — as robots move into human careers. Hawaii is already flirting with the idea.

Now that you have the scoop, instead of fearing our new robot overlords, just prepare to defeat, er, work with our new metallic colleagues.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He’s not worried, because even robots don’t want to go into journalism.

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