Automation-Jobs

A new security robot, nicknamed ROD2, drives toward Daniel Webb as it patrols the sidewalks and parking garage at River Oaks District in Houston. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, three-quarters of Americans say it is at least “somewhat realistic” that robots and computers will eventually perform most of the jobs currently done by people.

(Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle via AP, File

WASHINGTON — Most Americans believe their jobs are safe from the spread of automation and robotics, at least during their lifetimes, and only a handful says automation has cost them a job or loss of income.

Just 30 percent of people surveyed say that it is at least somewhat likely that their own jobs will be done by computers or robots. Seventy percent say it is not very or not at all likely.

Still, a survey by the Pew Research Center also found widespread anxiety about the general impact of technological change. Three-quarters of Americans say it is at least "somewhat realistic" that robots and computers will eventually perform most of the jobs currently done by people. Roughly the same proportion worry that such an outcome will have negative consequences, such as worsening inequality.

"The public expects a number of different jobs and occupations to be replaced by technology in the coming decades, but few think their own job is heading in that direction," Aaron Smith, associate director at the Pew Research Center, said.

More than half of respondents expect that fast food workers, insurance claims processors and legal clerks will be mostly replaced by robots and computers during their lifetimes. Nearly two-thirds think that most retailers will be fully automated in 20 years, with little or no human interaction between customers and employers.

Americans' relative optimism about their own jobs might be the more accurate assessment. Many recent expert analyses are finding less dramatic impacts from automation than studies from several years ago that suggested up to half of jobs could be automated.

A report last week, issued by the education company Pearson, Oxford University, and the Nesta Foundation found that just one in five workers are in occupations that will shrink by 2030.

Many analysts increasingly focus on the impact of automation on specific tasks, rather than entire jobs. A report in January from the consulting firm McKinsey concluded that less than 5 percent of occupations were likely to be entirely automated. But it also found that in 60 percent of occupations, workers could see roughly one-third of their tasks automated.

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