This past week, Waterloo Region Council continued our work on the new taxi by-law that will include Uber and other new types of vehicles for hire. Council members spoke excitedly about the potential of disruptive technology. Rideco, a local app based shuttle business, told us that part of what they do as a tech firm is research ways to make driverless cars a viable business.
Driverless cars. My baby boom friends are so excited about them. As they age, they won’t have to give up their car. In ten years, if not sooner, everyone can have one. Will everyone want one?
When I was first married, my in-laws ran rental cottages in the Halliburton Highlands. Across the road from them lived a family on a half acre with ranch house and lawn rider grass. The dad was a trucker who ferried goods from Toronto to the stores and supermarkets of cottage country. His wife was a teller at the local bank. They lived a good middle class country life. Their daughter grew up to work in the bank. I don’t know what their son did, but he may also have been a truck driver. Once again, a good life. Their millennial grandchildren could also squeeze out that life for a few years if they are lucky. The present generation of school-age children? Not happening when they grow up.
With all the excitement about disruptive technology, only a few seem to be talking about the effect of all these changes on the average person. It’s fluffed off with, “Oh, we’ll get the jobs back from China.” “It’s up to them to retrain for something (what?) else”.
Driverless cars will mean driverless trucks and driverless taxis, buses and shuttles.
According to Service Canada Truck driver statistics; 69,300 people are truck drivers. 97.1 percent of them are men, 92 percent are between 24 and 64 years old, 70% have high school or post-secondary education, and only two percent of them are bachelors. There is a shortage of long haul truckers at the present time. Average salary is around 40,000.
According to the 2006 census, pre-Uber, there were 50,000 taxi cab drivers in Canada. 21,050 bus, shuttle, and subway operators worked in 2013.
Approximately 140,356 good paying jobs will vanish in 15 to 20 years due to driverless cars. For taxi cab drivers, good paying full time jobs are disappearing now with the growth of ridesharing apps.
You may ask why didn’t Regional council just ban Uber if they are a bad employer? That is not the job of Regional government. We look after such things as requiring criminal background checks and safety inspected cars. It is up to the provincial government to make employment laws that regulate industries (Not just Uber) who say those who work for them are private contractors not employees.
The citizens of the Region like the convenience and features of the new apps. That is not the problem. The problem is that Uber runs on a part-time contractor model instead of employing people. A ridesharing company in Montreal, Teo Taxi, pays employees 15 dollars an hour.
But this dispute will be finished when driverless cars and trucks appear.
The wife in the middle class family I mentioned above will also see her job disappear. 46,000 positions in 2014, 90 percent between 24 and 64 years old, 98 percent women, 79 percent full time and $34,900 annually.Bank machines and self checkouts in grocery stores are eliminating white collar jobs as well.
Secretaries and executive assistants now transcribe minutes directly into laptops set up with the meeting minutes template. Everyone is is paperless, no more photocopying. We all look after our own calendars and memos. Bills are paid electronically. People use a computer program to do their taxes and finances instead of hiring a bookkeeper. Huge numbers of white collar jobs are disappearing.
Statistics Canada says of administrative and secretarial positions as of 2014,
Over the past few years the number of secretaries has decreased very sharply. Implementation of office automation and the diversification of administrative staff duties explain this decrease to a large extent. Since these changes are already well established, the number of secretaries should decrease significantly over the next few years, but at a much less spectacular pace than before.
Where will these employees go? What will happen to those middle class families who managed so well up to the year 2000? How will they support themselves and their families? Where and at what will the majority of school children of today do to make a decent living? We need a serious conversation about employment and disruptive technology.