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Do We Need Humans for That Job? Automation Booms After COVID

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Drinks surround a barcode attached to a table at the Bartaco restaurant in Arlington, VA.

At Bartaco restaurant in Arlington, VA, patrons use barcodes like this to order and pay. Instead of servers, Bartaco uses "food runners" to bring orders to the tables.

Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Service sector jobs increasingly are being automated amid the pandemic as companies navigate worker shortages and higher labor costs.

Economists once considered service sector jobs to be safe because robots would be unable to provide the human contact expected to be demanded by customers.

However, robots increasingly are being tapped to make pizzas and transport hospital linens, among other tasks, especially as they do not call in sick or spread disease.

The International Federation of Robotics predicts machines that clean floors at supermarkets, hospitals, and warehouses will see the fastest growth, as will those that offer information to shoppers or perform hotel room service deliveries.

Software and artificial intelligence-powered services are seeing higher demand as well, with more stores shifting to self-checkout and automating inventory tracking. However, economists are concerned that workers displaced by automation are pushed into lower-paid, lower-skill jobs.

From Associated Press
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