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Into The Unknown Essay

763 words - 4 pages

“HAS the machine in its last furious manifestation begun to eliminate workers faster than new tasks can be found for them?” wonders Stuart Chase, an American writer. “Mechanical devices are already ousting skilled clerical workers and replacing them with operators...Opportunity in the white-collar services is being steadily undermined.” The anxiety sounds thoroughly contemporary. But Mr Chase's publisher, MacMillan, “set up and electrotyped” his book, “Men and Machines”, in 1929.

The worry about “exporting” jobs that currently grips America, Germany and Japan is essentially the same as Mr Chase's worry about mechanisation 75 years ago. When companies move manufacturing plants from Japan ...view middle of the document...

“We travel in vehicles that were not yet invented that are powered by fuels not yet produced, communicate through devices not yet manufactured, enjoy cool air on the hottest days, are entertained by electronic wizardry that was not dreamed of and receive medical treatments that were unheard of,” writes Mr Nordhaus. What hardy late 19th-century American pioneer would have guessed that, barely more than a century later, his country would find employment for (by the government's latest count) 139,000 psychologists, 104,000 floral designers and 51,000 manicurists and pedicurists?

Even relatively short-term labour-market predictions can be hazardous. In 1988, government experts at the Bureau of Labour Statistics confidently predicted strong demand in America over the next 12 years for, among others, travel agents and petrol-station attendants. But by 2000, the number of travel agents had fallen by 6% because more travellers booked online, and the number of pump attendants was down to little more than half because drivers were filling up their cars themselves. Of the 20 occupations that the government predicted would suffer the most job losses between 1988 and 2000, half actually gained jobs. Travel agents have now joined the government's list of endangered occupations for 2012. Maybe they are due for a modest revival.

You never know

The bureau's statisticians are now...

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