An alarming new report from McKinsey & Co. called “The future of work in black America” highlights the challenges American workers will face during the next decade as automation continues to take away blue-collar jobs. But while the negative effects of automation are expected to hit all demographics, black American males are the group that will be most affected.
Automation refers to software, artificial intelligence, and robots taking over low-skilled jobs that once required a human to do. Businesses are rapidly pursuing automation advancements because of their cost-saving benefits. You don’t need to provide AI and robots with sick pay, health insurance, or overtime, after all.
There are three main reasons McKinsey & Co. found that black male Americans will be worst affected by automation:
- Black male Americans are overrepresented in high-displacement job categories. “High-displacement” jobs are the jobs most likely to be lost due to automation. Jobs in this category include office support, like secretaries and data entry personnel; food services, including fast-food workers; production workers, which include machinists and other factory workers; and retail workers.
- Black male Americans are also underrepresented in low-displacement job categories, that is, jobs which are expected to feel the impact of automation the least. These jobs include creative jobs, health professionals, teachers, business and legal jobs, and property and agriculture jobs.
- Black male Americans are also less concentrated in the areas of the country that are expected to experience the most economic growth over the next decade. In contrast, they are more concentrated in areas of the country that can expect the least economic growth over the next 10 years. As the report states, “African Americans are underrepresented in five out of the six projected fastest-growing geographical archetypes and are overrepresented in two of the six slower-growing archetypes.”
Black female Americans are expected to better weather the automation storm, however. That’s mainly thanks to the fact that many of the careers well represented by black women, including home health aides, nursing assistants, and personal-care aides, are expected to see more demand over the next decade.
As for how automation’s affect on black men can be mitigated, McKinsey & Co. says public- and private-sector institutions should pursue “large-scale economic-development strategies” to increase jobs and opportunities; supporting attainment of higher education for African Americans, which McKinsey & Co. says are “significantly underrepresented in the population that has a bachelor’s or graduate degree”; and enabling occupation switching and reskilling, as many of the men most likely to be affected already have the skills to work in other fields that are less likely to be impacted by automation.