By Wayne Lutton, May 11, 2015
A revolution in the workplace is occurring before our very eyes, with robots replacing humans in all sorts of occupations. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that “in corporate finance departments, software takes over jobs that once required lots more time, armies of people.” For example, at Pilot Travel Centers, one robot does the work that used to be performed by 80 people. Every week, it takes, tracks, and processes payment for thousands of orders. Ten clerks remain to pay suppliers of goods and services.
According to the Hackett Group, a consulting firm, since 2004, the median number of full-time employees in the finance department at large companies has declined 40%. The WSJ continued: “Automation is threatening to replace swaths of white-collar workers, much as mechanical robots have displaced blue-collar workers on assembly lines … . Among those is jeopardy: accounts-payable clerks; inventory-control analysts, who record and audit what is in stock and estimate inventory needs; and accounts-receivable clerks, who send invoices to customers, track payments, and forecast customer default rates.”
Even as what have been, until now, highly sought-after jobs in finance departments are disappearing, the federal government continues to issue H1-B visas for employment in this area. This encourages companies to hire foreign workers, in preference to Americans, to fill the remaining jobs.
Two years ago, an Oxford University study concluded that “about 47 percent of total U.S. employment is at risk” to be replaced by automation [see: “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerization?”]. Why, then, is the U.S. continuing to import foreign workers, and their families, when the future will require fewer workers?
Source: Vipal Monga, “The New Bookkeeper Is a Robot,” Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2015, Business and Tech Section, pp. B1,7.