How Technology Wreaks the Middle Class covers the growing concern that automation and technology is replacing many middle class jobs. Key quote:
The multi-trillionfold decline in the cost of computing since the 1970s has created enormous incentives for employers to substitute increasingly cheap and capable computers for expensive labor.
The article goes on to discuss "job polarization", which is the idea that the growing use of computers and automation has resulted in job growth being concentrated in both the highest- and lowest-paid occupations, while jobs in the middle have declined.
Key quote on what job polarization means:
Demand for highly educated workers who excel in abstract tasks is robust, but the middle of the labor market, where the routine task-intensive jobs lie, is sagging. Workers without college education therefore concentrate in manual task-intensive jobs — like food services, cleaning and security — which are numerous but offer low wages, precarious job security and few prospects for upward mobility. This bifurcation of job opportunities has contributed to the historic rise in income inequality.
The good news is the article's authors see growing opportunities for a new class of middle class jobs. Key quote:
... middle-skill jobs that survive will combine routine technical tasks with abstract and manual tasks in which workers have a comparative advantage — interpersonal interaction, adaptability and problem-solving.
The article calls these the "new artisans" and lists a number of new artisan job areas that will likely see growth in the coming years:
licensed practical nurses and medical assistants; teachers, tutors and learning guides at all educational levels; kitchen designers, construction supervisors and skilled tradespeople of every variety; expert repair and support technicians; and the many people who offer personal training and assistance, like physical therapists, personal trainers, coaches and guides. These workers will adeptly combine technical skills with interpersonal interaction, flexibility and adaptability to offer services that are uniquely human.
New artisans are an increasingly important segment of the U.S. economy. Many of these jobs are local and/or resistant to foreign competition and automation. Given the labor markets, becoming a new artisan will be the best employment path forward for many.