Technology and Jobs for the Future

Manufacturing is taking and extracting raw material and converting it into a usable product for society.  The manufacturing industry is always looking to produce more with less in order to make a profit. So of course labor is always hit first, as it tends to be the highest cost in the production of goods. Manufacturing companies use technology and trade policy to increase production and lower costs. According to Hodson & Sullivan (2012) pg185, the continued pursuit for cheaper labor has resulted in the decline of manufacturing jobs.

Thanks to technology and current trade policy, manufacturing companies are able to produce more with less.  As a result, the U.S. has more and more lower paid service jobs, and lots and lots of cheap (oftentimes unhealthy and useless) products to choose from. The last time my girlfriend sent me to the grocery store, she asked me to pick up some pasta. I had to call her because I was so confused – there were 20 different types of pasta to choose from, “GMO free pasta” to “no cook pasta.” It’s no wonder most Americans are confused about what to eat. Due to over production, we have more choices, yet lower wages, and what appears to be lot of uncertainty and anxiety around the future of work in our advanced industrial society. 

Automobiles, steel and textiles are three key manufacturing industries in the U.S that have been transformed by technology. These industries employ, “craft workers (skilled workers), machine operators and assemblers (semi-skilled workers) and laborers (unskilled workers).” Hodson & Sullivan (2012) pg195.  The advancement of technologies has resulted in changing work conditions for these workers. It has actually eliminated the need for some workers all together because machines can now do menial tasks that once required a human body to perform. So low skilled workers, like laborers have less job security than skilled workers.

Workers are being displaced while at the same time new jobs are being created. For example, in the auto industry, assembly line car painters have been displaced because machines can paint cars with more precision and less costs to the company. Yet at the same time, jobs are created to build and maintain these high-tech auto-painting machines. A human is needed to program and operate the machine.

Machines are also changing how steel workers perform their jobs in the steel industry as well as machine operators and assembly workers in the textile industry. Machines are awesome for doing our tedious work and they’ve made the work place safer for a lot of these skilled workers. It’s a given that as robots get better and better at performing human tasks, jobs in these manufacturing sectors will decline.  It’s unacceptable, however, that our jobs continue to disappear overseas because we don’t invest enough in high-tech education and job training that would keep us competitive in this global economy. 

Hodson, R., & Sullivan, T. (2012). The Social Organization of Work (Chpt.8&9).

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