At the beginning of the year, we reported that robots were expected to replace some five million jobs by 2020. It’s not even the end of the year yet, and this prediction already seems well on its way to coming true. The clairvoyant folks over at the World Economic Forum warned of a “Fourth Industrial Revolution” involving the rise of the machine in the workforce, and the latest company to lend credence to that claim is none other than Walmart, which is planning on cutting 7,000 jobs on account of automation.
The retail giant joins other companies like Foxconn and Wendy’s, which both made headlines earlier in 2016 for making similar workforce decisions. Foxconn’s casualties were the most pronounced, as the electronics maker cut some 60,000 factory jobs and replaced them with machines. And Wendy’s cited the rising cost of labor and competition among fast food chains as motivation for its own decision to replace some cashiers with kiosks. After all, how much friendly service are you really expecting with your burger and fries?
But the Walmart decision may be a bit more alarming for those in the workforce. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the most concerning aspect of America’s largest private employer might be that the eliminated positions are largely in the accounting and invoicing sectors of the company. These jobs are typically held by some of the longest tenured employees, who also happen to take home higher hourly wages.
Now, those coveted positions are being automated. The Journal reports that beginning in 2017, much of this work will be addressed by “a central office or new money-counting “cash recycler” machines in stores.” Earlier this year, the company tested this change across some 500 locations. “We’ve seen many make smooth transitions during the pilot,” said Deisha Barnett, a Walmart spokeswoman.
And while workers whose jobs may be at stake won’t necessarily lose their positions at Walmart, not everyone wants to stay at the retailer. “Right now I’m getting my resume together,” one employee who works in invoicing told the Journal. After earning about $15 an hour in her current position (she’s been with the company for over two decades), she notes that taking a job on the sales floor again just doesn’t hold the same appeal.