Half Of U.S. Jobs Are At Risk Of Computerization: Which 10 Are The Least Safe?

By Josh Lieberman on September 25, 2013 3:58 PM EDT

robot bartender
Half of U.S. jobs are at risk of computerization, according to a new paper from the Oxford Martin School in England. Even bartenders aren't safe. (Photo: Reuters)

Nearly half of the jobs in the United States are "highly likely" to be wiped out in the next decade or two, according to a working paper authored by researchers at Oxford Martin School in England. Increased computerization of jobs will thin out the ranks in low-end jobs like cashiers and factory workers, along with more advanced-seeming jobs like logistics, say Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, the paper's authors.

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"According to our estimate, 47 percent of total US employment is in the high risk category, meaning that associated occupations are potentially automatable over some unspecified number of years, perhaps a decade or two," they write.

Frey and Osborne analyzed about 700 jobs using data from the U.S. Department of Labor's O*NET program, which provides job information and descriptions for about a thousand careers. They analyzed jobs at a low-risk of computerization, like recreational therapists and social workers, to high-risk jobs like data entry and telemarketers. Frey and Osborne found that the jobs that were safest from computerization required "social intelligence," like persuasion and negotiation; "perception and manipulation," like the identifying and handling of irregular objects; and "creative intelligence," or coming up with ideas.

The authors say that the point of the paper was to identify what jobs will be lost, not to predict what turn the economy will take a result. But they do note the challenge that low-skill workers will face as computers take over more of their jobs. They cite recent trends which indicate that high skilled workers have been moved down the occupational ladder, pushing out low skilled workers down even further, or, in some cases, out of any sort of job entirely.

Below are the jobs that the authors say are least and the most likely to be at risk of computerization in the coming decade or two. On an only somewhat related note, here is a video of a robot fishmonger filleting a fish. Even fishmongers aren't safe from robots.

Occupations With The Lowest Risk Of Computerization

1. Recreational Therapists
2. First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers
3. Emergency Management Directors
4. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
5. Audiologists
6. Occupational Therapists
7. Orthotists and Prosthetists
8. Healthcare Social Workers
9. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
10. First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers

Occupations With The Highest Risk Of Computerization

1. Telemarketers
2. Title Examiners, Abstractors, and Searchers
3. Sewers, Hand
4. Mathematical Technicians
5. Insurance Underwriters
6. Watch Repairers
7. Cargo and Freight Agents
8. Tax Preparers
9. Photographic Process Workers and Processing Machine Operators
10. New Accounts Clerks

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