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RFID's Impact on Employment
Some jobs may be eliminated as adoption grows, but far more will be created than lost.
Why? Because RFID is about boosting economic efficiencies—and when you do that, you create jobs. Let's say I manufacture widgets. I'm making and selling 1 million units per year at a cost of $20 per widget. I deploy an RFID system that allows me to track work-in-process, manage finished inventory, reduce shipping errors and so forth, and I can now produce widgets for $17.50 per unit. Sales rise to 1.2 million units. I hire two additional people on the production line, another in the warehouse, another in the sales department, and maybe one more in accounting.
This is, admittedly, a simplistic example. But when you consider the history of the past 200 years, what you see is massive improvements in economic efficiencies in the developed world, and massive job creation. We went from a world in which most goods were handmade and transported via horse carriage, to one in which millions of items were mass-produced and shipped via train, truck and airplane. That led to the creation of wealth and new jobs, rather than job losses.
If you examine recent history, you'll see that companies spent $1 trillion on IT systems globally between 1998 and 2001, and unemployment was the lowest in the industrial world in several generations. The most industrialized companies have traditionally enjoyed lower unemployment rates than the developing world (though the current economic recession has dramatically increased unemployment).
Some jobs are always lost when new technologies are introduced, or when technological enhancements are made. We don't see a lot of elevator operators today, or buggy-whip manufacturers, but new jobs are being created. I'm not oblivious to the hardships that people suffer when their jobs are eliminated as technologies evolve. But in the grand scheme of things, new technologies generally create many more jobs than they kill. RFID will be no different.
Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or the Editor's Note archive.
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