Bad News, Men: Robots Are Coming for Your Jobs, Specifically

The robots are coming, and they’re going to scoop up some, most, or hardly any of our jobs, depending on which expert you’re listening to and which data they’re using. What a potential automated takeover would mean for mankind is up for debate, but recent research shows that it’s probably mankind, and not womankind, that needs to worry. If robots do take over our jobs, Oxford researchers say, they’ll come for the ones that are most often done by men.

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(Photo Credit: David Blackwell./Flickr )

Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, of the Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology and Machine Learning Research Group, respectively, examined 700 occupations and evaluated them to determine which were at risk for automation.

Their conclusion? Forty-seven percent of jobs, as they exist today, will likely be performed by robots in the coming years – but jobs typically held by men are much more likely to be automated than those held by women.

“The skills exhibited by the coming wave of intelligent machines are better suited to occupations currently dominated by men,” explains Jerry Kaplan at The Atlantic. “Many of the jobs held by men involve perception and manipulation, often in conjunction with physical exertion, such as swinging a hammer or trimming trees. The latest mobile robots combine advanced-sensory systems with dexterous manipulators to successfully perform these sorts of tasks.”

Even less physical jobs won’t be safe. Kaplan notes that even “more cerebral male-dominated professions” like commodity trader (77 percent male, according to PayScale’s Career Research Center) are susceptible to replacement by robots – or at least, by ever more sophisticated software programs that can make judgment calls better than humans.

Jobs that are heavily female-dominated, on the other hand – e.g. registered nurse (88 percent female) or nanny (99 percent female) – might be safe.

“…[W]omen typically work in more chaotic, unstructured environments, where the ability to read people’s emotions and intentions are critical to success,” Kaplan writes. “If your job involves distracting a patient while delivering an injection, guessing whether a crying baby wants a bottle or a diaper change, or expressing sympathy to calm an irate customer, you needn’t worry that a robot will take your job, at least for the foreseeable future.”

The gender wage gap is due in large part to the fact that women are more likely to choose professions that give back to the world, while men are more likely to choose work that’s well-compensated. Replacing workers who do high-paying, potentially easier-to-automate jobs with robots is no one’s idea of gender equality, however.

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