Is Innovation Destroying Jobs? Or Creating Them?

by Jessica Sommerfield · 6 comments

There’s been a flood of technological advancements in the last few decades, many of which have dramatically streamlined processes in our everyday lives. These innovations have led to more efficiency in many sectors, including business and manufacturing.

As a result, some outdated systems, equipment, and job titles are quickly becoming obsolete. Businesses or even entire fields have gone under, a mass of unemployed workers in their wake.

We’ve seen this happen most clearly in manufacturing. Robotics and automation have increased production efficiency and eliminated the need to employ as many workers, forcing many people to seek entirely new careers later in life.

When Innovation Affects Your Career

Being unexpectedly forced to change careers, or the focus of your company, can be traumatic and life-altering. It also leaves everyone feeling a little less secure about their future (if it happened to others, it can happen to you).

There’s no doubt that finding yourself suddenly unemployed is a difficult situation. If you have little or no savings set aside, your finances will be strained and your lifestyle threatened.

Finding a new job may also prove difficult, because you have to either:

  • Settle for a job below your skill level and/or current salary
  • Learn a new trade or return to college to acquire a new degree

These steps aren’t easy and can cause financial stress, but are necessary in order to move on. Many people do both: settling for a lower-paying job temporarily while completing training for a new career.

Because of these effects, it’s easy to see why people have been opposed to technological advancements throughout the years.

But are advancing technology and innovation really to blame for unemployment? Well, yes and no.

Innovation = Loss of Jobs

In the short term, yes, certain advancements will immediately result in a loss of jobs. The more large-scale the advancement, the greater the number of displaced workers. We can see this demonstrated in history during any major change to industry.

It’s no wonder many people are distrustful of new technology in the form of robotics and computerization; being replaced by a machine is a fate no one desires. It’s also natural to blame companies who benefit from technological advancements that enable them to downsize their workforce and, therefore, reap a higher profit.

Innovation = Future Opportunities

On the other hand, though innovation in science, engineering, and mechanics will cause immediate losses, it’ll also create equal, if not greater, opportunities in the future. Innovations save everyone time, money, energy, and other resources while increasing efficiency and efficacy. Even though there are some negative effects due to the changes they require, the ultimate result is usually good.

What’s more, advancements almost always create new jobs, opportunities for growth, and new business opportunities.

Even losing your job and being forced to return to college or trade school can be a blessing in disguise. We all know that it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and lose our ability to adapt and learn new things. Would you rather be very good at one thing (that may lose its usefulness) or be moderately good at many things?

Being forced to to learn a new skill set or begin a new career enables us to better ourselves by:

  • Revealing hidden talents, abilities, and aptitudes
  • Utilizing abilities we’re good at or enjoy, but weren’t able to use before

Since technology and career fields are changing so fast, it’s necessary to do market research into your chosen field to see if there’s room to grow, or if the demand for that job is dying out. You may still be caught off guard, but if you’re willing to learn, work hard, and, most importantly, change with the changing of the times, you’ll have no difficulty finding your new niche and means of financial security.

What do you think? Is innovation helping or hurting our jobs?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Vishwanath November 29, 2013 at 6:13 am

Very nice article. Thanks. Innovation and loss of jobs happen at different places and involves different people. Processes in manufacturing and services are vastly streamlined and lean when compared to the last decades. But the world has a huge to-do list such as education to billions, housing, medicare, transport, and so on. The whole of Sahara desert is waiting to be made green just to mention a point. The challenges are political, ethic and belief-systemic. Let us hope that the world will see less jobs in war industry and more in development.

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Bobby @ Making Money Fast and Slow November 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Automation has essentially eliminated jobs in the manufacturing business, especially since the Great Recession. Even in my job when I write an Excel macro to automate a task someone else does currently, I can see the elimination of jobs. In a few years, only highly skilled workers who can perform specialized skills (like programming the robots) will remain.

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MITM@NakedBudgeting December 1, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Great post and interesting topic.

Someone else told me that I should always try to work my way out of a job and in doing so I’ll always have a job.

What they meant was that if I was creative and innovative enough to basically eliminate my role, then I would always have a job because company’s value that innovative creativity more than eliminating my position.

I’ve always done that and it has served me very well.

~Just my two cents.

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Levi Blackman December 2, 2013 at 12:09 am

I’m all for automation and replacing people with robots but the profits earned through automation should go to a small group of people. The labor from these robots should be taxed just like the labor of people is, and that money should go to help out all those losing their jobs to robots.

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Steven Le December 2, 2013 at 4:50 am

I’m all for automation as well. The whole needs to innovate for us to develop and become even more technology driven – not that this is always a good thing. But there are just so many benefits now thanks to people innovating things.

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Phil Maguire December 5, 2013 at 8:35 am

Innovation neither destroys nor creates jobs – humans, and only humans, do that. Innovation simultaeously destroys and creates work which forms part of a job. But then it’s up to the business to modify the job description so that the job is maintained – as they used to do in Japan and still do in any economy that wants to grow.
Anyone who wishes to have a job that is fulfilling and rewarding needs to be constantly innovating because that is the only way to improve.

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