Could your job be done better by a robot? That’s the question posed to 16,000 employees by British insurance company Aviva. If you think anyone would be crazy to tell their employer ”yes, I’m obsolete,” consider this: According to the Sunday Times (paywall), Aviva is offering to train employees for alternative jobs in the company for those who admit their job could be automated.
Though Aviva’s particular bargain is new, the idea of insurance jobs being automated is not. Oxford University research from 2013 identified insurance agents, appraisers, and claims processors as being extremely vulnerable to automation. (You can find out how vulnerable they found your job to be in this NPR interactive.)
Despite frequent warnings that automation will disrupt a wide swath of industries, many workers believe that their own job is safe. That’s probably unreasonably optimistic. In addition to the Oxford study, a critical mass of recent research has pointed to the coming tidal wave of automation. A White House report from 2016 concluded that between 9% and 47% of all American jobs are vulnerable, including 80% of jobs paying less than $20 an hour.
Assuming even the most conservative numbers, that’s a lot of disappearing jobs. Deals like Aviva’s offer a potential lifeline for employees who will lose out in a more heavily-automated economy. Whether or not those new jobs are sustainable—and not just a stepping stone to robot-induced unemployment—remains to be seen.