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How Many Jobs Have Been Replaced by Technology? (2023 Statistics)

Technology has been transforming work since the first Industrial Revolution began mechanizing production over 200 years ago. But the pace of change accelerated rapidly in the computer age, and even more so in recent decades with innovations in robotics, automation and artificial intelligence. While bringing many benefits, these technologies have also fundamentally disrupted some occupations and rendered a number of human jobs obsolete. So what do the latest projections reveal about the scale of jobs already replaced by technology, and roles still at risk in the years ahead?

Historical context: Technology has been reshaping work for centuries

  • First Industrial Revolution (late 18th-early 19th century): Mechanization started replacing agricultural workers and artisans with machines and factory jobs
  • Second Industrial Revolution (late 19th-early 20th century): Electrification and mass production led to decline of more skilled trades and craftspeople
  • Computer Revolution (mid-20th century): Mainframes, databases and IT started transforming office jobs like clerical work and data processing
  • Information Age (1970s-onwards): Personal computers, Internet and digital connectivity eliminated various administrative and communications roles
  • AI and Automation Era (today): Machine learning, robotics and smart software are automating a widening range of occupations

While past technology disruptions sometimes caused major hardships for displaced workers, new kinds of jobs also emerged. But the pace of change today, and the new capabilities of AI, raise concerns about impacts on lower skilled workers.

Over 50% of current work activities could be automated using AI: McKinsey

  • Per a 2021 study by consulting firm McKinsey & Company, 49% of job activities across the global economy have the technical potential to be automated with technologies that currently exist.
  • They estimate that between 400 million to 800 million jobs worldwide could be eliminated by automation by the year 2030 as a result.
  • While only 5% of occupations overall can be fully automated, about 60% of occupations have at least 30% of activities that could technically be automated.
  • The most automatable roles are physical ones in predictable environments like factories and food services, but clerical support roles are also highly susceptible as algorithms take over routine data tasks.

Up to 30% of US jobs could be highly exposed to automation by 2030: Brookings

  • Economists at the Brookings Institution estimate approximately 25-30% of jobs in the United States have a high exposure to replacement by AI and automation over the next 10-20 years.
  • The occupations most likely to be eliminated include food service workers, customer service reps, warehouse workers, office support staff, transportation operatives, laborers, maintenance workers, construction, mining and production roles.
  • Jobs at lower risk of automation generally require higher cognitive, social, creative and emotional intelligence skills such as management, healthcare, technology and creative professions.
  • Workers without a bachelor’s degree face around 3 times higher risk of their work being automated relative to college graduates.

Manufacturing – Over 20 million global jobs already lost to automation since 2000

  • Manufacturing is the industry that has experienced the greatest extent of workforce automation already, from robotics on assembly lines to computer-aided manufacturing.
  • Per the International Federation of Robotics, between 2000-2018, the operational stock of industrial robots in North America grew from 120,000 to over 730,000 units.
  • This expanding robotic presence is estimated to have replaced 400,000 manufacturing jobs in North America alone over that 18-year period.
  • Globally over the same timeframe, industrial robot installations grew from around 830,000 to 3.17 million units, displacing well over 20 million manufacturing workers, concentrated in automotive and electronics industries.

Over 200,000 U.S. bank branch jobs eliminated in the past decade

  • The financial services industry has faced major technology-driven workforce impacts and job losses, as ATMs, online banking, chatbots and algorithms take over tasks once done by human tellers, clerks and advisors.
  • Wells Fargo economists estimate over 200,000 bank branch jobs have been lost in the U.S. over the last 10 years. Bank branches have declined by over 7,000 in a decade, as location traffic falls due to digital services.
  • Bank branch visits are forecasted to decline by 36% between 2017-2022. Transactions have fallen by 45% since 2010, accelerating the job losses. Self-service kiosks and chatbots now handle many routine customer queries.
  • Additionally, robo-advisors and AI fraud detection systems have started replacing investment bank analysts and risk management roles.

Cashier jobs declining due to retail automation – 5 million projected U.S. losses by 2025

  • Cashier positions are declining as retail companies automate more checkout processes with self-service kiosks and AI-assisted scan-and-go technologies to reduce labor costs.
  • Per BLS statistics, while there were still 3.6 million cashier jobs as of 2021, that figure has decreased approximately 7% over the past 5 years in the U.S.
  • Business management consulting firm Cornerstone Capital projects that upwards of 5 million retail cashier jobs could be lost by 2025, an over 80% decline in cashier jobs over 10 years, replaced by automation.

Warehouse order fulfillment may be 80% automated by 2025

  • Warehousing and logistics jobs are being impacted by new robotic technologies handling inventory management, shipment sorting and order picking processes once done by human workers.
  • According to research firm Interact Analysis, robotic systems will account for 80% of all warehouse order fulfillment by 2025 compared to under 5% today.
  • Amazon for instance already has over 200,000 warehouse robots deployed, replacing pickers and packers. Other companies adopting warehouse robotics at scale include Walmart, DHL, FedEx and Alibaba.
  • As robot densities increase, warehouses can fulfill 3-4 times as many orders per day with 80% fewer human staff needed just to walk around retrieving items.

Up to 20 million manufacturing jobs globally could be replaced by robots by 2030

  • Oxford Economics modeling indicates approximately 20 million manufacturing jobs around the world could be eliminated due to industrial robotics by the year 2030.
  • The costs of industrial robots have decreased approximately 11% per year in recent decades while capabilities have expanded exponentially. Adoption is accelerating.
  • The impacts are expected to be concentrated in countries with high densities of automotive and electronics factories like China, South Korea, Japan, Germany and the U.S.
  • 8-9% of manufacturing jobs in these economies face displacement risk, representing over $2 trillion in worker income that would be redistributed to the owners of the robotics technologies.

Lower wage earners face greatest risk of technology-driven displacement

  • While technology drives productivity gains, economists point to the downsides it can create in terms of income inequality and job polarization.
  • Workers earning lower wages have the highest exposure to automation risks. Those earning under $20 per hour are about 4 times more likely to lose jobs to technology versus jobs paying over $40 per hour.
  • Hispanic workers face automation risks nearly 1.5 times higher than average. Young workers also face above average likelihood of job displacement from robots and algorithms.
  • To manage the workforce transitions ahead, policymakers advise collaborative approaches between industry, academia and government providing job training programs, educational initiatives, tax incentives and income supports. Preparing workers for the well-paying technical jobs of the future through upskilling and retraining will be crucial.

The expansion of AI, robotics and automation is certain to keep transforming the employment landscape in the years ahead. While the statistics vary on the exact numbers of jobs susceptible to replacement in the near future, the impacts on certain industries and demographics appear inconsistent. With proper workforce planning, education and training, workers can gain the skills needed to transition to emerging new roles in tomorrow‘s economy. But proactive policy and partnerships will be essential to managing these workforce disruptions and shaping an inclusive future of work.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.