Cushioning of Automation

October 23, 1963

Report Outline
Urgency of the Automation Problem
Elimination of Jobs by Automation
Efforts to Help Affected Workers
Benefits of Technological Innovation

Urgency of the Automation Problem

Automation has become organized labor's principal concern at the bargaining table. Wage increases used to head the demands of union leaders in contract negotiations; now provisions for job security occupy first place. The rising labor productivity made possible by technological change is depriving thousands of unskilled and semiskilled workers of their jobs, and many of them may never find new ones. The picture, moreover, seems to grow constantly grimmer. How to ease the impact of automation on employment and employment security—and make certain that its material benefits are not outweighed by the harm inflicted on human beings—is consequently drawing the closest attention not only of labor but also of management and government.

Disturbing Dimensions of Nation's Job Shortage

There is general agreement that automation is a more serious threat to employment than was the industrial revolution. John I. Snyder Jr., board chairman of U.S. Industries Inc., a company that produces automated machinery, has asserted: “The industrial revolution created jobs. Now we're using sophisticated machines to destroy jobs.” Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz also rejects the suggestion that automation is just another phase of industrialization. He believes that “That's a little like suggesting that there was nothing particularly different about splitting the atom, that it was just a new form of explosion.”

Labor Department statistics indicate long-range increases in unemployment in the absence of effective measures to offset the impact of automation. John F. Henning, Under Secretary of Labor, said last July that the country would have to provide 34½ million new jobs in the present decade merely to keep unemployment at current levels. The need for additional jobs comes from two sources: (1) An estimated net increase of 12½ million workers during the decade and (2) a loss of 22 million jobs (2.2 million annually) as a result of increased output per man-hour stemming in large part from technological progress.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Automation of Industry
Jan. 03, 2020  Supply Chains at Risk
Oct. 23, 1963  Cushioning of Automation
Jun. 03, 1959  Automation and Jobs
Jan. 05, 1955  Automation of Industry
Manufacturing and Industrial Production
Unemployment and Employment Programs