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News, Technology

Are Robots Contributing to Job Insecurity?

Abhinav Raj

Abhinav Raj, Writer
@uxconnections

The adoption of autonomous technology is approaching warp speed across several industries, instilling a sense of insecurity and a fear of being ‘replaced’ in the workforce.

While there is no clear answer to the age-old question of whether a robot can take your job from you, new indicators suggest that they can add to your sense of insecurity at work. 

New research published by the American Psychological Association evidences that employees that work alongside robots may experience burnout syndrome, and their workplaces may be susceptible to higher degrees of ‘incivility’. 

Professor of management at the National University of Singapore and the research lead Kai Chi Yam have emphasized that workers in the U.S. and regions of Asia feel a sense of insecurity imparted by robots in the workplace even in industries they’re not being actively deployed. The research lead, however, asserts that most of these fears are unfounded or greatly exaggerated. 

“Some economists theorize that robots are more likely to take over blue-collar jobs faster than white-collar jobs,” he described.  

“However, it doesn’t look like robots are taking over that many jobs yet, at least not in the United States, so a lot of these fears are rather subjective.”

An online research experiment was conducted with over a hundred engineers to establish links between reports of burnout and automation in the workplace in the context of an Indian automotive plant. 

The research results found a positive correlation between workplace incivility and the deployment of industrial robots.

Yam, however, maintains that the apprehensions are somewhat overblown. “Most people are overestimating the capabilities of robots and underestimating their own capabilities,” the research lead explained. 

Robots are automatizing more and more low-cognitive skill functions in the business landscape. (Image: FDATA ROBOT on Unsplash)

“Media reports on new technologies like robots and algorithms tend to be apocalyptic in nature, so people may develop an irrational fear about them.” 

A second experiment comprising 343 participants was conducted to further investigate the correlation between the perception of job insecurity and the rise of robots. The cohort of participants was divided into three distinct groups, each assigned the task to read three different articles vis-à-vis—an editorial describing the use of robots in a business context, a general article about robots, and an entirely unrelated article. The participants were subsequently surveyed about their concerns over job insecurity. It was revealed that the first group reported comparatively higher levels of job insecurity than the latter two. 

The report has been published in the Journal of Applied Psychology

The findings of the comprehensive research have raised important questions. It remains unclear whether it is the substantive difference robots have been making in the business landscape that is contributing to the sentiment of job insecurity, or the biased, sensationalized lens of the media through which these advancements in technology are perceived by members of the public. 

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 

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