A new study from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business’ Michael Gibbs finds that technological advances, particularly in machines that can perform complex tasks, have begun to dramatically change jobs and labor markets. While this phenomenon has had an economic effect, it has also reprioritized which qualities are most important in a valuable employee. Many analytical, social and creative skills cannot be replicated by machines, and therefore make a strong case for a continued need for human workers.
Gibbs’ study suggests that this “hollowing-out” of middle-skill, routine jobs has a drastic impact on wage inequality. As middle-skill opportunities shrink, giving rise to high and low-skill jobs, wages also become either high or low. This disparity has already impacted the economy and will continue to change the labor market’s landscape. Automation in the workforce naturally impacts current employees, but students and job-seekers should take heed of the patterns that have emerged. Since the jobs that are harder to automate involve creativity, cognition and social skills, job-seekers should develop these intangible qualities to make themselves more valuable to potential employers.