Amazon is known as a popular online shopping platform that also manufactures its own products such as the Kindle, Fire tablets, online streaming for music and videos, and much more. However, the website is widely used for online shopping where shoppers can purchase items and have them delivered within as little as 2 days for free with an Amazon Prime membership. With the growing development of digital media and technology, online shopping is becoming more and more popular. This raises the question of whether the rise in popularity for online shopping is hurting business in physical shops. Because of the ease of being able to shop from home with just the click of a button, there is no need to go the store to purchase the item. Which means there are less customers in stores that need assistance and services from employees. If there is less need for in store employees then ultimately, there is less need to hire people to fill those positions.
Amazon is now taking this one step further. If you did not think technology was affecting the availability of jobs before, then Amazon’s new advancement may change your mind. Amazon has created a new service called Amazon Go. Amazon Go will be a chain of convenience stores set to be launched in 2017. The goal of Amazon Go is to speed consumers’ shopping experience by cutting down the long lines usually seen in convenience stores. There will be no floor employees in these Amazon stores, no store greeters, and no cashiers to collect payment from customers. Instead, everything will be operated through technology. This technology will be able to monitor costumers entering the stores, record what they purchase, and charge them the appropriate amount through their Amazon account. This service will in turn cut down labor costs for amazon by completely eliminating the need for cashiers and other expendable employees (Mourdoukoutas, 2016).
At the moment, there is only one Amazon Go store and it is currently in the testing phase. The store is located around the corner of the Amazon headquarters in Seattle, Washington in the United States. The company is set to open the store to the public in early 2017 once the beta testing has been completed. Amazon Go utilizes a smartphone app when the shopper enters the building and can detect when they pick up or return items to the store’s shelves. Using a virtual cart, it keeps track of purchases. Once the customer’s shopping is complete, they are free to just go (like the name of the store). The customer leaves the store without going through a checkout process, no lines, and no need to have a face to face interaction with an employee. Everything will be done through the use of technology (Daniels, 2016).
Many other popular retailers are straying away from the use of human employees. McDonald’s recently announced that they will be replacing cashiers with ordering kiosks (Mourdoukoutas, 2016). In addition, Wal-Mart, Target, and Panera Bread have also been using technology to replace labor that usually pays employees at the minimum wage. There has been a movement to try to raise the minimum wage pay rate in the United States, but these companies’ turn to technology may be making these movements irrelevant. It is almost like a slap in the face to those employers asking for the minimum wage pay raise as well as to those demanding more job opportunities. Companies are realizing that machines are cheaper than humans in the long run. They don’t need to worry about paying machines, labor laws, employment benefits, etc., like they do for human employees. Machines are more efficient and less costly over time. So instead of having to pay employees more due to the protests for higher minimum wage, companies can just opt out of hiring them all together (Mourdoukoutas, 2016).
There is an uproar about the continuous rise of unemployment within developed countries. Jobs are being outsourced, technology is taking over, and people are mad. Even with globalization, most developed economies continue to face high unemployment rates. The average unemployment rate in developed countries rose from under 6 percent in 2007 to over 8 percent in 2012. For example, in the United States of America, the unemployment rate continues to rise while there are already 12 million Americans jobless. In January 2013, the unemployment rate in the United States was 7.9 percent (Publications, 2013).
“The jobless rate in Spain in the last three months of 2012 rose to 26 percent, or close to 6 million people, the highest since the mid-1970s. The unemployment rate in Greece also increased in the final quarter of 2012 to almost 27 percent, the highest in the European Union. The unemployment rate in the 17-nation euro zone climbed to 11.9 percent in January of 2013, according to Eurostat.” (Publications, 2013)
With these statistics in mind, one may wonder how these technological advancements will further impact unemployment rates globally. Amazon is paving the way for a new and affordable (for the company) way of selling goods to consumers. Companies like McDonald’s, Walmart, and Target are also on the same track and it will not be long until others follow suit. Before we know it, most shopping stores may be run by technology and there will no longer be a need for human cashiers, greeters, in store customer service representatives, etc. That alone takes a great number of potential jobs away from the human race. Technology is taking over whether we like it or not.
By Tanisha Lazarre