90% of Americans Are Confident in Job Security. Here’s Why They’re Wrong

Natalie Thomas
Sad woman holding a box and sitting on the floor in front of her empty office desk.
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According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 9 in 10 Americans are satisfied with job security. However, some are still skeptical. Forbes contributor Liz Ryan fears that job security is in danger, and there may be good reason for her concern.

What Is Job Security?

Job security is the likelihood of being able to hold a job for an extended period of time. The high rate of American confidence in job security stands in stark contrast to the widespread alarm felt during the relatively recent years of the Great Recession. Job loss from 2007-2009 reached 16% compared to consistent net gains in jobs over more recent years.

What is particularly concerning is how quickly that loss occurred. In contrast to net gains in 2007, the U.S. employment rate reached a peak net job loss of more than 800,000 by 2009 — the worst since the Great Depression. This was then followed by almost a full recovery by 2011. The economy changes on a dime, and job security is always at risk to some degree.

This is particularly true of low-income and minority workers. In fact, the same Gallup poll reported that Hispanic and low-income groups expressed more concern about job security than other demographics. This is a fair concern considering how the income gap and discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, sex/gender, disability, orientation, and age are known to affect job security. 

Furthermore, despite overall economic growth, some job sectors like retail, information, and utilities are beginning to employ fewer and fewer people. Losses in these particular sectors are understandable considering the impact that technology is having on the economy.

AI and Automation Could Threaten Job Security

AI and automation are serious factors when it comes to job security in the modern-day. According to a McKinsey report, approximately 50% of work activities are technically automatable. This does not indicate an overall economic decline, but it may be beneficial for people to anticipate which jobs are the most and least threatened by automation, in order to adjust career plans accordingly.

Jobs We’ll Lose

Office support, predictable physical labor, and customer service are several fields where jobs will likely be affected by automation. Many aspects of these fields are based on repetitive tasks that automated technology can or will soon be able to emulate.

Jobs We’ll Gain

Creative work, unpredictable physical labor, care professionals, and technology are a few fields that will benefit from and expand as a result of automation. The future need for technology professionals is obvious. Care professionals will be needed to attend to our aging population. Creative work will be in demand as part of the rise in entertainment; and unpredictable labor jobs are hypothetical labor jobs that may arise based on future needs. The death knell of one industry often heralds the birth of another — a phenomenon that is often easy to observe, such as in the case of the burgeoning e-commerce industry.

The Gig Economy Is Threatening Job Security

Another large-scale effect of technology in the workplace is the trend toward remote work. While some technological advancements are completely replacing the need for workers, others are simply reducing the need for the workers to physically be in a building at a certain time.

In response to a lack of need for full-time, onsite employees, many businesses are developing full or partial contractor models. This allows for more flexibility on the part of the business and the employees. Additionally, this emerging trend is both a symptom of the rising gig economy and fuel for it.

However, the gig economy isn’t the enemy. When we say it is “threatening job security,” that is not to imply that it is bad for society in a vacuum; it is simply problematic because it is causing a serious economic shift, which in turn uproots existing jobs. There are actually some very encouraging aspects of the gig economy and the jobs that it is altering and creating, such as supplying more job opportunities for creatives.

Upheaval Is Inevitable

As stated, the biggest threat to job security in the coming years is simply the uprooting of modern-day work in the face of automation. However, that is not the only concern. Deregulation and the outsourcing of jobs to other countries also raise serious challenges for job security in upcoming years, along with many other factors, known and unknown.

Considering this, and the unexpected way that job extinction can occur, it is prudent to anticipate changes in the job market, and also to ensure that one has an emergency fund in place in the event of sudden job loss. However, upheaval not only presents new challenges but also new opportunities to explore. In addition to — and as part of — your preparation for the worst, see what new goals may be open for you to pursue as a result of these changes in our economy.

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