Computerization and the Staffing Industry: A Grim Future or a Bright Outlook?

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What do surgeons, social workers and choreographers have in common? All three are among the list of jobs deemed least likely to be at risk of computerization, according to a 2013 Oxford University academic study by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne.

In their research, Frey and Osborne analyzed and ranked 702 US occupations for their risk of computerization. They concluded that 47 percent of the total US workforce is at risk and suggested that job replacement would occur over the next 10 to 20 years.

History

While these findings may seem concerning, the replacement of workers with technology traces back as far as the Industrial Revolution. In the past, computerization was limited to manual and cognitive tasks that required rule-based activities. However, recent advances in technology have enhanced the range in which computers can function like humans – think Google’s Self-Driving Car.

Benefits and Concerns

These advancements garner both positive and negative consequences. On the plus side, computerization of human tasks can increase the efficiency and quality of production while driving labor costs down. On the negative side, some warn that the increased use of computers to perform human tasks will cause an even bigger rift in wealth disparity and put millions of workers out of a job.

Staffing Industry Analysts’ Research

Based on Frey and Osborne’s research, Staffing Industry Analysts evaluated the potential impact that computerization has on jobs that are often filled by contract or temporary employees. Their research ranked the average probability of computerization by staffing segment. The top three segments most likely to be replaced by computerization were finance and accounting, office/clerical, and industrial, respectively.

What Does This Mean for Contingent Labor Users?

Despite the likelihood of computerization for many positions filled by temporary workers, SIA suggests that, if human labor continues to upskill, new jobs will derive from those that have been computerized and the need to fill positions with temporary workers will still exist. SIA also indicates the potential of increased reliance on temporary staffing due to the restructuring of the workforce and the need for employers to use flexible alternatives as opposed to investing in a more permanent workforce. Therefore, if employers want to get ahead of the computerization curve, they should consider increasing their use of contingent labor.