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Friday, April 1, 2022

Robots are coming for white-collar jobs

CEOs are speeding up the adoption of automation to replace employees once assumed to be immune from it. 

By Jim Hightower 

In corporate speak, there are no “job cuts.”

Instead, firings are blandly referred to as “employment adjustments.” Now though, corporate wordsmiths will need a whole new thesaurus of euphemisms for the massive job cuts coming in the higher echelons of the corporate structure.

Don’t look now, but an unanticipated result of the ongoing pandemic is that it’s given cover for CEOs to speed up the adoption of highly-advanced “Robotic Process Automation,” or RPAs, to replace employees once assumed to be immune from displacement.

As one analyst told a New York Times reporter, “With RPA you can build a bot that costs $10,000 a year and take out two to four humans.”

Prior to the COVID crisis, many top executives feared a public backlash if they pushed automation too far too fast. But ironically, the economic backpedaling caused by the pandemic has so discombobulated the workplace and diverted public attention that corporate bosses have been emboldened to rush ahead.

One happy purveyor of RPA systems notes that the pandemic has “massively raised awareness among executives about the variety of work that no longer requires human involvement.” He cheerfully declares: “We think any business process can be automated,” advising corporate bosses that half to two-thirds of all the tasks being done at their companies can be done by machines.

Conventional corporate wisdom blithely preaches that all new technologies create more jobs than they kill, but even those pollyannaish preachers are now conceding that this robotic automation of white-collar jobs is being imposed so suddenly, widely, and stealthily that losses will crush any gains.

“We haven’t hit the exponential point of this stuff yet,” warns an alarmed analyst. “And when we do, it’s going to be dramatic.”

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. Distributed by