One of the good things about automation is that it increases productivity. That means that output can be increased with fewer workers. This article reports on a study which indicates that up to 47% of the jobs in the US have the potential to be automated over the next 20 years. That is good news for those who believe that there will be better jobs available for the displaced workers. All that they need to do is to increase their skill levels so that they can take higher paying jobs that require more education and training. That of course is what Tom Friedman has been telling us for the last 15 years in his books, and in his op-eds. The future belongs to the best educated society. Displaced workers may even become authors like Tom Friedman who is very productive. He has been writing the same story for 15 years.
The problem with this story is that we don't need that many highly skilled workers. We can't replace 47% of the jobs being performed today with new jobs that require an advanced education. We will be faced with the problem of providing incomes for a large number of people who do not have jobs, or we will need to create more jobs for workers who are not in demand.
The estimates made about the impact of automation on the job market may be exaggerated. However, the percent of employed Americans in the labor force has been shrinking for more than a decade. Much of that has been due to the outsourcing of 2 million manufacturing jobs, but some of that has been due to automation. Its pretty clear that governments will faced with the problems created by a more productive economy. Some of the things that government might do are described in this article. They are not the kinds of things that are very popular with our politicians.