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86 Percent of Food Service Jobs Automated by 2030?

86 Percent of Food Service Jobs Automated by 2030?

Chef Robot exhibited by a Japanese food machinery maker, placing a set of waxwork sushi one by one on a plate during a demonstration at a trade exhibition in Tokyo, Japan. (Koji Sasahara/AP)

Wednesday, 02 August 2017 09:37 AM Current | Bio | Archive

As robotics and other forms of automation mature in the coming years, a massive shift is expected to take place in the workforce. Research conducted by the Oxford Martin School estimates that 86 percent of food service jobs are at high risk of being automated by 2030.

So are 75 percent of transportation and warehousing jobs; 67 percent of real estate, rental, and leasing jobs; 67 percent of retail jobs; and 62 percent of manufacturing jobs.[1]

Estimates like these have caused some groups and individuals, such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to speculate a wave of mass unemployment in the coming years.[2] However, concerns about automation are nothing new. A 1961 article in Time magazine reported that a rise in unemployment at that time "raised some new alarms around an old scare word: automation." The article noted that, while the causes of the increased unemployment were not clear, "many a labor expert tends to put much of the blame on automation."[3]

In fact, nearly 500 years ago, Queen Elizabeth I refused to provide patent protection for an automated knitting machine. The Queen said she had "too much regard for the poor women and unprotected young maidens who obtain their daily bread by knitting to forward an invention which, by depriving them of employment, would reduce them to starvation."[4]

There continues to be a link between public policy and issues of automation. Edward Rensi, a former CEO of McDonald’s, said, "I guarantee you if a $15 minimum wage goes across the country you’re going to see a job loss like you can’t believe." He argued that "it’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries."[5]

Others disagree. The president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has said, "This robot thing is a way to distract taxpayers who are underwriting the low wages of these multinational corporations." [5]

In other columns, I have argued that the best way to resolve these issues is through pragmatic experimentation. In practical terms, that means letting state and local governments determine the appropriate minimum wage for their community.

Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day is published by Ballotpedia. Each weekday, Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day explores interesting and newsworthy topics at the intersection of culture, politics, and technology.

Scott Rasmussen is a Senior Fellow for the Study of Self-Governance at the King’s College in New York and an Editor-At-Large for Ballotpedia, the Encyclopedia of American Politics. His most recent book, "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not," was published by the Sutherland Institute in May.To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.


  1. The Wall Street Journal, "Robots Are Replacing Workers Where You Shop," July 19, 2017
  2. AEI Ideas, "Meeting the rise of the robots: Mass unemployment or mass redeployment?" January 13, 2017
  3. Time Magazine, "Business: The Automation Jobless," February 24, 1961
  4. Quartz, "The optimist’s guide to the robot apocalypse," March 9, 2017
  5. Washington Post, "Ex-McDonald’s CEO says raising the minimum wage will help robots take jobs," May 25, 2016

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As robotics and other forms of automation mature in the coming years, a massive shift is expected to take place in the workforce.
aei, elizabeth i, seiu
Wednesday, 02 August 2017 09:37 AM
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