Technological unemployment is a term used to describe the lack or loss of jobs due to technological changes or innovations. This type of unemployment typically comes from workers either being replaced by machines or having their jobs made easier and require fewer workers to accomplish the same task. Though technological unemployment has been a general concern since the Industrial Revolution, it has become an increasingly prominent concern with real consequences in the Western world since the 1980s and the recognition of countries like the United States experiencing “jobless growth.”
Considered by many economists as part of “structural unemployment,” technological unemployment can be isolated or may occur as part of a larger unemployment trend. Structural unemployment is one of the five primary forms of unemployment as seen by economists, and generally covers any type of unemployment in which the people who are seeking employment are not properly skilled or prepared to fill the job opportunities that may exist. This type of unemployment is generally seen in long-term unemployment situations, and though the numbers of people looking for work may match the number of available jobs, the unemployed are not sufficiently qualified to fulfill the needs and duties of these jobs.
Technological unemployment is often an aspect of structural unemployment, as workers may find that the job they just had has been replaced by a machine or computer, and that the entire industry has changed irrevocably. This can lead to the unemployed job seeker finding that every opportunity for employment that existed before has disappeared, perhaps with the entire industry adopting the technological changes that have made his or her position nonexistent. In these types of situations, political leaders and economic experts often advise those seeking work to instead turn to education, as new skills and knowledge are often required to reinvigorate the work force.
One of the greatest potential problems with technological unemployment is the somewhat recent trend seen in industrialized nations referred to as “jobless growth.” Jobless growth is the improvement of a nation’s businesses and financial sector, with increased profits and greater financial success but without the creation of jobs. This can often lead to noticeable financial recovery, but without any noticeable creation of new jobs to reduce the unemployment rate. Technological unemployment can be such a massive paradigm shift in the workplace that it leaves people completely unable to come to grips with how an industry has changed, and those who do not find ways to adapt may find themselves in long-term unemployment.