TECHNOLOGY

Walmart says automation is not the enemy of U.S. workers

BY Dan Berthiaume

Automation will reshape the next generation of American work, but a new report from Walmart finds an effective response will create positive results.

According to “America at Work: A National Mosaic and Roadmap for Tomorrow,” a new analytical report from Walmart and McKinsey & Company, automation means jobs will be done differently, but not disappear. McKinsey data indicates 60% of occupations could see at least 30% of their activities automated.

Walmart suggests that six principal responses will enable the U.S. workforce to successfully adapt to automation. These are fostering economic development and creating new jobs, retraining and upskilling displaced workers, boosting mobility within the labor market, building and maintaining infrastructure, updating social support systems for modern employment patterns (such as portable benefits for self-employed workers), and strengthening primary and secondary education for new economic realities.

In addition, Walmart identifies eight community archetypes, each with its own unique characteristics that will shape their responses to the impact of automation. These archetypes are:

• Urban centers and core suburbs – Major metropolitan areas of the U.S. and their adjoining suburbs. These communities must promote inclusive growth by ensuring access to opportunities for all members.

• Urban periphery – More distant suburbs surrounding urban centers and core suburbs, often in a ring. These communities must enhance connections to the urban core while developing distinct strategies to attract residents, businesses and innovation.

• Smaller independent economies – Communities not connected to major metropolitan areas, with large numbers of white collar jobs. These communities must maintain and grow attractiveness as a destination for white collar employment.

• Americana – Core rural communities located closer to major metropolitan areas than other rural communities. They must attract new investment and job growth by leveraging their skilled workforce.

• Distressed Americana – Struggling communities with low labor force participation concentrated in the South, but also found in other areas of the country. They must build foundational skills and leverage potential strengths (such as agriculture or ecotourism) to attract capital.

• Rural service hubs – Semirural communities often located off highways in the western U.S. and home to major manufacturing and service industries. They must become 21st century, tech-enabled service hubs.

• Great escapes – Remote wealthy enclaves and tourist destinations located far from major cities, but with the highest GDP per capita, household income, and attainment of bachelor’s degree of all eight archetypes. Great escapes must create training to transition transactional service workers to growing personal services roles.

• Resource-rich regions – Rural communities far from major metropolitan areas that often experience incredible growth upon discovery of a natural resource, such as oil or precious metal. Resource-rich regions must maintain a supply of skilled technical workers to both support and enhance booms and plan for the post-boom future.

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