Friday, August 23, 2013

"Barbers, Bakers and Bankers: Whose Job Is Future-Proof?"

The robot barbers are just around the corner and the Soylent guy aims to do away with food as we know it so it's got to be bankers.
From the WSJ's At Work blog:
What do you want to be when you grow up?
An occultist, feather dresser, a lightning-rod maker? That’s what a child in the mid-nineteenth century might have answered.

These occupations were among the jobs included in the Census of 1850, the first year the federal agency collected information on how Americans spent their working days.* These numbers in hand, the government formed policies and forecasts related to production, employment and other topics.

In 322 short entries, the list offers a snapshot of the antebellum economy, when lace manufacturers and mustard makers were found in plenty of towns and villages. (Which makes us think that Americans circa 1850 and present-day residents of certain Brooklyn neighborhoods might have a lot in common.)

Comparing the 1850 list to the 2010 version shows which occupations might realistically be considered timeless. Entertainers — or showmen, as our great-great-great grandparents might have called them–artists, editors (Aha! — Ed.), barbers and bakers were around back then, and they still toil away in large enough numbers to merit a listing in 2010. Same with physicians, veterinarians, civil engineers and lawyers.

But other categories might not be so resilient. In the age of digital technology, how much longer will motion picture projectionists be able to earn a living? Sure, there might be a handful left in 2050 to run 35mm reels for traditionalists and billionaire film buffs. But soon there may not be enough to tally them separately, and they’ll suffer a fate similar to the engravers and coppersmiths of yore, uncounted or consigned to the buckets for leftovers, such as “personal care and service workers, all other.”

In many cases, the 1850 positions have been automated or outsourced away, or simply changed so much that they bear no resemblance to their earlier iterations. Who needs an ice dealer when every home has a refrigerator with a built-in freezer? And the confectioners and chocolate manufacturers of 1850–listed back then as two separate categories–mostly labored in private kitchens and small workshops. Today’s candy makers include workers at huge corporations like Hershey and Mars, and are lumped into the general group of “food batchmakers.”...MORE