Automation and Jobs – Unevenly distributed

apple store nycI have been reading plenty of stories recently about how technology and automation are killing jobs. And my usual reaction is to think of William Gibson and his quote “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”.

All the talk of job losses rarely accounts for collateral job growth.

It’s like in aviation. In the 40s, some of the commercial planes had four pilots, three flight engineers and two radio operators. That has shrunk to today’s cockpit of 2. But look at the massive explosion in aviation on a global basis and all kinds of cockpit,  cabin, ground jobs that has created. And as international flights extend nonstop coverage, it is common to have 2 relief pilots on each flight.

Or the Apple iEconomy. People love to bash Apple for its labor leanness relative to its revenues and market valuation,or just dismiss the jobs as low wage.

Look at what they don’t factor:

Jobs at

  • The long list of global suppliers that provide components for Apple products
  • Contract assemblers like Foxconn and Pegatron. Between Apple (its largest customer), HP, Microsoft and other electronics vendors, Foxconn has a global staff base of over a million employees.
  • Fedex and other logistics providers that move inbound components and outbound product from assembler to retail and customer destinations.
  • Apple telecom partners related to massive growth in mobile customers and broadband infrastructure
  • Its 400+ retail stores which hire on average of 100 employees each
  • The App store which has created plenty of mom and pop jobs from the over $ 10 billion in royalties Apple has paid out. And more to the music ecosystem via iTunes royalties
  • The cottage industry which makes accessories and home and auto equipment to surround Apple products
  • Local economies as Apple investors spent some of their wealth from the valuation increase
  • And on…

Of course, there were job losses:

  • Apple’s iPhones and iPads have led to Dell, HP, RIM, Nokia, Microsoft and others losing out
  • iPods and iTunes led to a demise of record stores, Sony and other devices
  • Mobile broadband has impacted landlines and related equipment
  • Over the decades, Apple jobs at plants in Elk Grove, Il; Cork, Ireland, Singapore have moved on

And that is the point. Technology leaves its imprint on far flung corners of the global economy. Much of it, looked at from a wider time and place lens, is positive.

(Cross-posted @ DealArchitect Full)

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CEO of Deal Architect, a top advisory boutique recognized in The Black Book of Outsourcing, author of a widely praised book on technology enabled innovation, The New Polymath, prolific blogger, writing about technology-enabled innovation at New Florence, New Renaissance and about waste in technology at Deal Architect.  Previously Analyst  at Gartner, Partner with PwC Consulting. Keynoted at many business and technology conferences and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, The Financial Times, CIO Magazine, and other executive and technology publications.