The Rise of Knowledge Workers Is Accelerating Despite the Threat of Automation

5. May 2016

Date: 05-05-2016
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Occupations with cognitive tasks that aren’t routine are adding the most jobs in decades.

The number of people in knowledge work jobs—that is, nonroutine cognitive occupations,has more than doubled in the last 30 years and there’s no sign of it slowing down.

In the past three decades, the number of jobs for knowledge workers has never been rising as quickly as it is right now.

As recently as the mid-1980s, you could categorize American workers into roughly three equal-sized groups of about 30 million people each. About 31 million people had nonroutine cognitive jobs, what is often called “knowledge work,” consisting of varied intellectual tasks such as professional, managerial or technical occupations. Just under 30 million people had jobs that consisted primarily of routine manual work—on assembly lines or in warehouses, doing physical tasks day after day. About 30 million people had jobs consisting of routine office work—bookkeepers, filing clerks,  bank tellers and so on—work that doesn’t involve much physical activity but is highly routine and doesn’t necessarily require high levels of knowledge. A fourth, smaller group, did nonroutine manual tasks, such as many service occupations.

But over the past three decades, almost all job growth has come from the two categories of work that are nonroutine. Meanwhile, routine jobs have been under a lot of pressure, especially during periods of recession. Read the rest of this entry »