Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Robots Targeting the Economic Lifeblood


BLS: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Phlebotomists

Employment of phlebotomists is projected to grow 27 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, blood donor centers, and other locations will need phlebotomists to perform blood work.

Good luck on that one.


July 30, 2013
Are We Ready For A Robotic Phlebotomist?

From the comments of the video:

Whoa! Is this true?! This is scary! I am a medical laboratory technician. There goes all our jobs. - Kelly G

Is this really a job you would want for your children though? I'm not asking for myself. It's just that I've been doing some reading lately and others are starting to ask.

March 10, 2014
Why the Rise of the Robot Workforce Is a Good Thing

But, Bass asked: “Are the jobs lost to automation ones that you would want for your children?” Few parents, he said, dreamed their kids would someday become fuel pumpers or elevator operators, jobs already replaced by automation. In the next 30 years, Bass added, smart machines and robots will outnumber humans on the planet.

Bass presented some outlandish ideas to help societies deal with the structural changes generated by a robot-heavy workforce, including taxing economic output rather than income, or implementing a “negative income tax,” in which governments pay citizens a stipend in order to guarantee a level of income.

Very outlandish indeed! Structural changes? That's crazy talk. Everyone knows that our problems are cyclical and easily solved by our central bank cyclically sticking with ZIRP to get us through the cyclical rough patch. Then again, perhaps some sort of expanded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program might augment the natural cyclical forces at work? You know, just as a temporary stopgap until the economy cyclically accelerates to the upside again. Too much sarcasm? Feels heavy.

A record 20% of American households, one in five, were on food stamps in 2013, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

My girlfriend will soon be training as a phlebotomist on her way to a future nursing degree. This topic therefore hits a bit close to home. Seriously. Sigh.


dearieme said...

I was in hospital for tests the other day. The nurse was finding it difficult to find a good vein on the girl on the next bed, so she sent for the phlebotomist. When he arrived I remarked "Here's your guardian angel". He corrected me: "Guardian vampire".

Nathan said...

Good points Mark.

My feeling is that Federal policies have essentially stacked the deck against the competitiveness of human labor. Specifically,

Taxes - Favoring passive income and over ordinary income. Relatively light property taxation. Significant payroll taxes, which are used no differently than other income taxes. Favorable depreciation rules for business expenses.

Health care - Embedding health care costs into labor costs.

Monetary - ZIRP

Think of how many of those policies implicily favor Baxter over a person doing the same job. I don't think we should do anything to artificially preserve jobs that can be automated, but I don't see any reason to tip the scales in favor of robots either.

Nathan said...

The irony of this whole situation is that technology has partially delivered the dream of a utopian lifestyle, we just don't have a compatible economic system.

Why is it considered progressive to keep dirty jobs at home or encourage more people to go to college? Jobs and degrees are just a means to an end, yet our government demands both in abundance, independent of their economic value.

It really feels no different than targeting steel production during the Great Leap Forward or building ghost cities in Inner Mongolia. It's cargo cult economics either way.

Stagflationary Mark said...


Guardian vampirie? Nice.

I had my blood drawn several years ago. I asked the phlebotomist how much he likes his job. He said he'd been doing it for 20 years and loved it.

It showed. He seemed so content and satisfied.

Stagflationary Mark said...


I agree with your comments.

The Growth of College Grads in Dead-End Jobs (in 2 Graphs)

Here's the math. Since the dotcom bust, the share of underemployed college grads in what the Fed calls "good non-college jobs," which today pay at least $45,000 a year,* has declined from more than half to slightly over a third. Meanwhile, the share in "low-wage jobs," which today pay $25,000 a year or less, has risen to about 20 percent, from roughly 15 percent. Do little back-of-the- envelope math,** and you find that about 9 percent of all working college graduates are stuck in jobs that pay less than $25,000, or probably somewhere south of $12.50 an hour.