What jobs are going away? What jobs will survive?

The World

If you were young and thinking about your career — or even finishing high school or college — you'd want to know where you could make a living. We got a quick chance to hit up Robert Reich, former US secretary of labor, University of California Berkeley professor and author, with this question:

What sort of jobs do you see going away in the future and what sort of jobs might surprise us with their survivability or growth?

Robert Reich: Well there is going to be a technological replacement of a lot of knowledge intensive jobs in the next 15 or 20 years, particularly in the two largest sectors of the labor force with knowledge intensive professional skills.

One is teaching and the other is hospitals and healthcare. You have so many applications and software and platforms that are going to come in and basically provide information and service with regard to directly educating yourself — MOOCs and other innovations, and also doing your own diagnostics and testing with regard to your healthcare issues you might be concerned about.

Which means that a lot of the healthcare sector and a lot of the education sector will be radically changed and a lot of jobs will be lost.

Now, where will the new jobs be found? Well, the one sector of the economy that can’t be easily replicated by even smart technologies, even knowledge intensive technologies is the caring sector — the personal care sector. That is, you can’t really get a robot to do a great massage or physical therapy. Or, you can’t get the kind of personal attention you need with regard therapy or any other personal service.

There could be very high-end personal services. Therapists do charge a lot of money. I think there’s no limit to the amount of personal attention and personal care people would like if they could afford it.

And there in becomes the real question in the future: How can people afford these things even though technology is freeing them up from doing a lot of other things if they don’t have money, because they can’t get a job that pays enough?

That’s why I wrote this book ("Saving Capitalism") much of it is about how to re-organize the economy for the future when inevitably, technology is going to be disrupting dramatically what we used to consider good paid work.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich stopped by WGBH studios recently. This was a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

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