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Breaking News: Automation May Replace Black Workers

Breaking News: Automation May Replace Black Workers

By Ryan Velez

You may hear a lot of rumbling about automation and how it is the wave of the future. Some people like the idea because it will allow for more efficiency and effort to be put towards other areas. Others are worried that people will be pushed out of work in the name of efficiency. People of color are often disproportionately represented in some of these labor jobs, so is automation scheduled to hurt Black people by default? Black Enterprise tackles the question.

Race and Jobs at High Risk to Automation, a new data brief from The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, covered this issue. More than 31% of Latino workers and 27% of African American workers concentrated in occupations will be impacted. In contrast, those same occupations account for 24% of White workers and 20% of Asian American workers.

To find their data, the Joint Center looked at the 30 U.S. jobs that employ the most people and are most likely to be replaced by automation in the next 10 to 20 years. The top 10 of those jobs were; grounds maintenance workers, receptionists and information clerks, accountants and auditors, construction laborers, waiters and waitresses, cooks, secretaries and administrative assistants, cashiers, and retail salespeople.

“African American workers are overrepresented in particular jobs with a high risk of being eliminated or fundamentally changed by automation,” they found.

On top of many of their jobs being at risk, Black people may also have other issues transitioning to new work.  “While automation will create new types of jobs, the African American community faces a unique combination of well-documented challenges that make it particularly vulnerable to labor market transitions. These challenges include: 1) an average household net worth that is one-tenth that of whites (making periods without income particularly difficult); 2) implicit bias in hiring and evaluation; 3) residential and educational segregation; 4) transportation challenges; 5) lower rates of digital readiness; and 6) and limitations in social networks,” Black Enterprise explains.

In addition, a sudden loss of jobs for Black people could widen the gulf of economic inequality even further. Displacement of half of the African American workers in just the 30 largest occupations at high risk to automation without transitioning them into new employment opportunities could increase the African American unemployment rate from 7.5% to over 20%. Automation is not without benefits, but social changes will be needed to mitigate its impact in some areas.

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