What will happen to American jobs, incomes, and wealth a decade from now?
Predictions are hazardous but survivable. In 1991, in my book The Work of Nations, I separated almost all work into three categories, and then predicted what would happen to each of them.
The first category I called “routine production services,” which entailed the kind of repetitive tasks performed by the old foot soldiers of American capitalism through most of the twentieth century — done over and over, on an assembly line or in an office.
estimated that such work then constituted about one-quarter of all jobs in the United States, but would decline steadily as such jobs were replaced by new labor-saving technologies and by workers in developing nations eager to do them for far lower wages. I also assumed the pay of remaining routine production workers in America would drop, for similar reasons.
I was not far wrong.
The second category I called “in-person services.” This work had to be provided personally because the “human touch” was essential to it. It included retail sales workers, hotel and restaurant workers, nursing-home aides, realtors, childcare workers, home health-care aides, flight attendants, physical therapists, and security guards, among many others.