The future American worker is more likely to look like R2D2 than you. And the ones that do look like you are going to require specialized skills to make it in the not-to-distant future. It’s a trend that is already well underway, but according to a new report by Forrester Research, the pace of obsolescence for many human workers in the United States is likely to accelerate dramatically.
The Forrester Research study indicates that automation and robotics will wipe out about 25 million jobs in the United States by 2027. The same trend is projected to create about 15 million new jobs over that time period, but that’s still a net loss of 10 million jobs, or about 7 percent of the current U.S. labor force. It is also unlikely that very many of the 25 million human workers whose jobs are made obsolete by technology will fill many of the 15 million new jobs that are created by this phenomenon.
Few people dispute these trends; they are already patently evident to everyone. And yet, despite the fact that we are already moving in that direction at very rapid pace, our political system stubbornly clings to an immigration policy that is more suited to 1927 than to 2027.
In the face of evidence that our economy will require fewer workers, not more, and that the workers we will need will require specialized skills, the United States continues to admit immigrants at near record levels. Not only is immigration vastly expanding the size of our labor force at a time when the need for workers is contracting, our current policies pay very little attention to whether the immigrants we admit are likely to be the people who will soon be replaced by robots, or the people who can build and program those robots.
Even more remarkably, businesses of all kinds, including the ones most likely to scrap 25 million human workers over the next decade, continue to claim they face labor shortages and demand access to more foreign workers…and get away with it! Just this week, congressional leaders from both parties and the Trump administration caved in to demands by the business lobby and vastly expanded the visas allocated to low and unskilled guest workers.
As we find ourselves on the cusp of (even more) rapid and significant economic change our immigration policy is in a dangerous state of denial.