SHRINKING VIOLETS

Until the robots can arrange flowers, there will still be jobs for humans

Obsession
Future of Work
Obsession
Future of Work

Much has been written about the rise of automation, and what it means for the future of employment.

There’s mounting evidence that workers in wide swaths of job categories will be replaced, and the most vulnerable jobs are ones that require little education and offer low pay. And while it’s certainly true that positions like surgeons and corporate executives are the most insulated from the robot takeover, the connection between pay, education, and automation isn’t always predictable.

Bloomberg Businessweek combined Bureau of Labor Statistics data with a study by Oxford professors Carl Frey and Michael Osborne—who ranked 702 professions by their likelihood of being automated (pdf)—to plot the relationship between pay, education required, and vulnerability. While the general trend is clear—the best protection against automation is a job that requires a college degree or more—there are outliers on either end of the curve.

Here are five relatively low-paying jobs in little danger of disappearing:

Job Average annual pay Education required Probability of being automated (%)
Floral designer $27,610 High school 0.6
Recreation worker $27,230 High school 0.6
Photographer $42,640 High school 2.1
Childcare worker $22,930 High school 8.4
Fitness trainer $42,780 High school 8.5

And here are five relatively high-paying jobs in jeopardy:

Job Average annual pay Education required Probability of being automated (%)
Insurance underwriter $75,480 Bachelor’s degree 99
Credit analyst $81,169 Bachelor’s degree 98
Compensation and benefits managers $126,900 Bachelor’s degree 96
Accountant and auditor $76,730 Bachelor’s degree 94
Budget analyst $77,170 Bachelor’s degree 94

The high-paying jobs in trouble tend to require the ability to understand systems and numbers, but don’t demand creativity or interpersonal skills. The opposite is largely true for the low-paying jobs, which rely on “soft skills.”

The future for accountants and budget analysts might not be as bleak as the report suggests. While some professions will disappear completely, it’s more likely that in others, only the most rote functions will be eliminated, making room for more creative work.


Read this next: The optimist’s guide to the robot apocalypse

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