Will Automation Kill Employment?


The argument that increased automation will see an equal increase in unemployment has yet come to pass. But with more automation on the way and an increasing uptake within the service industry and manufacturing, will we begin seeing that effect anytime soon?

These arguments are rife across the world from McDonalds to auto manufacturing and every industry in-between. It has been a circular argument within society since before the industrial revolution. A fear that mechanization would replace jobs or automation would make all workers redundant and it hasn’t come true yet.

While increased automation has put some people out of work, it has mainly been in manual or repetitive jobs that people do not value anyway. There is no evidence to assume that would change anytime soon or that it will be making more workers redundant.

Canada has a wide and varied economy. We are slowly pulling away from commodities into technology and services and while we retain a large manufacturing base, that is already largely automated. So there is no change there.

The age of automation will likely demand more workers rather than less. Robots will need maintenance, programming, development and support, materials will always need producing, transporting and refining and all these robots will be producing more goods for us to buy.

To create more goods with robots requires a strong demand from the public. If they are unemployed, they won’t be consuming enough to require automation and the cycle grinds to a halt.

Automation within our service industries are currently optional rather than mandatory and that won’t change soon. Go into any McDonalds and you have the option of the machine or the person with seemingly equal amounts of people using both. If this is indicative of our opinion of automation, it will be a long time yet before the government needs to consider providing us with a living wage.