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COVID-19 Could Prompt an Increase in Workforce Automation

The shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could hasten and expand the process of automation and job losses as companies and consumers were forced into quickly adapting new technologies.

robots pack boxes in factory
(TNS) — As some sectors of the economy ease into reopening, the future of many of the lost jobs to coronavirus is questionable, concludes a report released Wednesday by Georgia State University researchers.

Artificial intelligence and automation have been eating away for years at jobs such as those in food and hotel services, retail trade, manufacturing, and sales. The shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could hasten and expand the process of automation and job losses as companies and consumers were forced into quickly adapting new technologies and ways of doing things that are not likely to change.

“(T)he pandemic may be increasing the speed of the transition toward automation because of social distancing measures and because concerns regarding the spread of the virus have forced the creative use of digital technologies in education, business and medicine, among other industries,” it says.

“While workers across the income distribution are affected by the current pandemic, industries with a large share of relatively low-wage occupations are bearing the brunt of the unemployment crisis.”

It continues, “In the short-term, the transformation may exacerbate under-employment, as those without sufficient skills find it difficult to compete in the changed labor market when economic activity begins to pick up again.”

Consultants McKinsey & Company reached similar conclusions in an April report.

The GSU study says this forced pause in employment is the right time to begin thinking about reskilling displaced workers.

“Without new training, those displaced initially by COVID-19 may find that as the economy recovers, their old jobs are no longer available and new jobs require skills they do not possess.

©2020 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.