Technology is hailed as a powerful engine of job creation, but things may not be as rosy as we like to think.
Yes, it creates opportunities for new businesses and new roles across all sectors, but there is also evidence that tech destroys jobs, and is largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the past 10 to 15 years.
Software and robots are replacing people in some areas, and as startups work furiously to automate key businesses processes and make workflows more efficient, sometimes people fall by the wayside.
Furthermore San Francisco is beset by worries and rumors of a tech bubble.
Not to be all gloom and doom (especially on a Sunday morning, gloom and doom go terribly with scones), but sometimes it is important to step back from all the back-patting about helping to employ America, and look at what is really going on.
Web hosting review site WhoIsHostingThis conducted a survey of the tech industry and its layoffs. The result is this infographic, which documents significant layoffs at giants like Cisco, IBM, and Oracle, as well as smaller companies like TaskRabbit and and Lytro.
In some cases, the layoffs are due to sluggish sales. In others, they happen because new markets are reluctant to adopt new forms of technology or because competitors swoop in with better products. Sometimes people lose their jobs as part of “restructuring” and efforts to make the business leaner.
However there is also evidence to support that despite some major layoffs, tech jobs are a vital and growing part of the economy.
The Bay Area Economic Institute conducted a study which found that “While the average worker may never be employed by Google or a high-tech startup, our jobs are increasingly supported by the wealth created by innovators.”
The report’s author Professor Enrico Moretti said that a “multiplier effect” happens, whereby scientists and software engineers help increase employment and salaries for those who provide local services, i.e. developers love their fancy, lovingly hand-pulled, artisanal espresso.
5 of the 7 fastest growing sectors of the U.S. economy are fueled by technology startups, and the JOBS Act and the Internet of Things are expected to trigger even more growth. In a county beset by high unemployment rates, there are still thousands of job openings for computer programmers.
A recent study by Glassdoor also found that employee fear of layoffs recently dropped to the lowest levels in 5 years.
All of this, at-times oppositional, information just goes to show that employment is a complicated issue and that technology, like Shiva, is both a creator and a destroyer.