The influence of technology in areas from retail to manufacturing is frequently blamed for everything from income inequality to the bifurcation of America. But as the statistics show, nothing could be further from the truth.
And the truth is…
- In E-commerce… brick and mortar employees today perform many of the same tasks as their predecessors in the 1980s, and their real wages reflect that lack of change. In fact, they earn about the same today in inflation-adjusted dollars as they did then. Meanwhile, workers in e-commerce fulfillment equipped with tech tools and better information earn, on average, over 30% more than their brick-and-mortar counterparts (according to researchers at Progressive Policy Institute).
- Over the past two years, brick-and-mortar employment has fallen by about 1%, or 123,000 jobs, while e-commerce has added 178,000 jobs. If you add in the new wave of express delivery workers required today, it adds another 58,000 jobs.
- While e-commerce employment will continue to soar, increased automation of fulfillment centers will bring down distribution costs which today have been estimated to be as much as half of the final purchase price on a wide range of consumer goods. Driving down those prices of course helps customers.
- And that fulfillment automation will then lead to changes in manufacturing too. When individual items can be sorted and delivered inexpensively, the economics of small-batch and custom manufacturing become ever more attractive and persuasive. It’s also likely these small-batch custom manufacturers will be located closer to the ultimate consumer.
- We’re fast moving into an Internet of Goods era, states Michael Mandel, a senior fellow at the Mack Institute for Innovation Management at the Wharton School, in an article he wrote in the October 16th issue of The Wall Street Journal .
- And finally, if e-commerce is the indicator we think it is, tech-savvy jobs that simply require workers who “have a good mix of physical and cognitive skills, just the like the industrial jobs of the early-20th century” will mean plenty of jobs for folks that don’t have a college education. It’s all just an example once again of how the march of progress, while not a straight line, inevitably replaces old jobs with newer, better-paying ones.
And the real lesson in all this? For the willing, tech is your friend, and it will be your future. It will be the source of more and more (and better-paying) jobs. It’s nothing to fear. But it is something to learn.