Technology is moving at an increasingly fast pace, with every facet of our lives now linked intrinsically to microchips in one way or another. While this might all be in the name of progress, it’s also having a negative effect on many traditional careers which are increasingly becoming automated.
There are already warning signs. A 2015 study (PDF) by Foundation for Young Australians found that nearly 60% of young people in the country ‘were studying or training for occupations were at least two-thirds of jobs will be automated’ by the next decade or so. That is a huge waste of skills.
But which jobs are likely to disappear by 2030?
Join us as we explore 15 disappearing jobs, and find out if yours is safe from automation.
1. Travel agent
There was once a time when booking your summer getaway to Malaga was a case of popping into a travel agency on a Saturday afternoon, skimming through a few brochures and having a cheery sales rep put the whole thing together on an oversized computer.
Now, with the abundance of easy-to-use comparison websites, anybody can arrange their own holiday. All you need is your bank card and a few spare hours to research your destination, with the likes of Skyscanner, Trivago and Opodo tailoring flight and hotel searches to your exact price and date range. Many travel operators have realised this and are closing down branches to focus on their online offers.
There are still plenty of other opportunities in the wider travel industry, though.
There has been increased talk in the last few years about the reality of a cashless society, with advances in contactless payments, Apple Pay and even cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin becoming prominent within mainstream society.
While not everyone is on board, with some preferring to still use cash to better track their spending, one thing is for sure: the requirement for people to handle the payments is no more. With self-service tills and stations already a common site in supermarket chains and even fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, the demise of the cashier seems inevitable.
3. Fast food cook
With fast food chains wanting to operate at a lower cost, automation could be imminent in the future. Indeed, according to a 2013 study (PDF), fast food workers face an 81% chance of automation.
Fast food cooks, in particular, could be made redundant in the next few years as their employers begin to use current technologies to speed up processes and minimise operational costs. And it’s happening now: CaliBurger is already testing an automated workforce with AI-driven, burger-flipping kitchen assistants.
4. Mail carrier
While there will still be the need for couriers to deliver parcels, things don’t look good for the traditional mail carriers delivering letters. This is mainly because the things that they deliver won’t exist in the next 20 years, with bills and statements being viewed and paid online, junk mail moving from your letterbox to your email inbox, and the writing of letters long since a dying art.
Despite this, companies still frustratingly ask you for a utility bill as proof of address, even though most utility companies abandoned paper statements long ago!
5. Bank teller
While banks won’t disappear altogether, many local branches will. This is due to the convenience and user-friendly nature of online and telephone banking, where you can make transactions and manage your account with ease – and all from the comfort of your own home.
People will still need to consult with financial advisors and experts, so banks will remain open; there will just be a lot less of them.
6. Textile worker
The dwindling number of employees in the textile industry isn’t due to the lack of demand for products, but rather how they’re made. With machines now able to perform a lot of the manufacturing and production work, there are fewer opportunities for textile workers.
On the upside, the move towards semi-automation means that highly skilled specialist operators will be required, albeit in smaller numbers.
7. Printing press operator
There has been speculation about the future of the print media industry for some time now, with various publications investing more time and content into their online versions. Additionally, Millennials prefer to get their news from less biased, less mainstream sources, meaning that the printing industry needs to adapt and evolve – or become extinct. This means that print press operators could be facing a significant decline in business.
One thing is for sure; though: the age of the print newspaper is coming to an end. Why wait until tomorrow to read about the news when there is an absolute wealth of sources online that offer minute-by-minute coverage?
8. Sports referee/Umpire
If you’ve ever fancied a career in sports, perhaps you should think twice about becoming a referee or umpire – chances are your services won’t be required in the future.
Football’s governing body, FIFA, is relenting to pressure to introduce more technology into the game, with goal-line technology now a standard and the video assistant referee (VAR) system being utilised in top European leagues. This follows the example of other sports such as tennis, cricket and rugby, which have long since been using technology to make real-time decisions during a match.
While some feel that a move to artificial refereeing is a positive thing and reduces the scope for error, others argue that many sports rules are open to interpretation and that the possibility of human error increases the drama and spectacle of the match.
9. Retail jeweller
Although jewellers are not at risk of being replaced by machines (yet), their jobs could still be in jeopardy due to changing trends and social behaviours. According to a report by the Jewelers Board of Trade, the jewellery industry shrunk by 4% in 2018, with hundreds of jewellery stores going out of business in the US.
It seems that younger generations are less inclined to invest in expensive jewellery, which is bad news for the industry. Considering that current generations have less disposable income, diamonds may not be on top of their priority list.
Plus, younger generations are also more likely to support smaller businesses with ethical and sustainable practices rather than established luxury brands. Therefore, this could signal the downfall of high-end jewellery brands as millennial consumers shift their focus elsewhere.
At the age of Uber and Lyft, dispatcher roles are becoming increasingly scarce. Indeed, as popular rideshare apps become more mainstream, people no longer need assistance booking their journey through a dispatcher. Instead, companies are beginning to adopt automated taxi-dispatch systems and booking software that eliminate the need for a human workforce.
Plus, all thanks to Google Maps, people can plan travel routes and discover local transportation services with a few screen taps.
As more and more paper products become digital, and corporations and governments shift towards a greener and more sustainable environment, lumberjacks are becoming an endangered species.
There are already massive amounts of research into the development of alternative eco-friendly building materials, as well as talk about the long-term future of human labour being replaced by more sophisticated and advanced technologies.
Most people (apart from telemarketers, of course) will actually be pleased about this one, or at least they would be if the annoying, unwanted sales calls weren’t being replaced with even more annoying automated sales calls.
Many telemarketing companies have adopted this new approach that negates hiring costs and can engage potential customers at any time of the day or night.
While imports of seafood and farmed fish are cheaper and increasingly more common, both the UK and US have been guilty of overfishing. This causes major disruptions within ecosystems, affecting food chains and survival rates of marine life; at the same time, the effects of climate change are also having an impact on the available stocks of fish.
None of this looks good for professional fishers, who are subject to ever stricter quotas as a result of these developments. Even the few who choose to remain in the profession will be unlikely to escape technology, with research underway into fishing ‘bots’ that can do the job instead of humans.
14. Legal secretary
In the legal sector, technology has already led to the automation of over 30,000 jobs. These include roles such as legal secretaries. Further than that, a recent Deloitte report suggests that over 114,000 legal jobs could be automated in the next two decades as the industry begins to adopt new technologies such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence.
For legal secretaries, this technological disruption could reduce the number of roles available within the sector significantly, as robotisation and digitalisation take over their main tasks.
When it comes to occupations that include manual labour, automation seems inevitable.
Assemblers are mainly responsible for making commodities such as toys, vehicles and aircrafts, among other products. However, with machines and robotics taking over assembly processes and repetitive tasks, assemblers are becoming an endangered species in most industries.
According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the profession will face an 11% decline by 2028, resulting in the loss of some 203,300 jobs.
Although the prospects for these jobs might look grim, it’s not all bad news. A 2017 report (PDF) by tech giant Dell claims that 85% of the jobs that will be available in 2030 have not even been invented yet, with the technological landscape set to become unrecognisable over the next 13 years.
Many of the jobs in this list will also become redefined as opposed to totally eradicated, with skills that can be transferable to other roles. Flexibility and a willingness to change careers will be an important attribute in the future job market.
If you want to be totally bulletproof from the claws of progression, though, author and futurist Martin Ford recommends pursuing a career in industries that require creative and interpersonal skills, such as art, science, business and medicine. So far, computers cannot replicate true human inspiration and intellect, so these occupations seem safe (for now)!
Is your job safe from automation or are you suddenly looking at a career change? What other jobs do you think will become automated in the future? Join the discussion in the comments section below and let us know!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 7 November 2017 and was written in collaboration with staff writer Melina Theodorou.