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Millennial Unemployment: It's Automation's Fault

Kayla Ambrose
The increase in technology has not only shaped the millennial generation, but endangered them as well. As technology improved, creating self automated functions and machines, it has decreased the demand for educated workers. More millennials have invested in a college degree than previous generations of young adults.[1] In fact, millennials are the most educated generation in human history, and yet have the most amount of people unemployed in the last 40 years.[2] As of 2010, 75 percent of 18-24 year olds enrolled into higher education.[3] While the industry of higher education continues to produce well educated young adults, more and more jobs are occupied by automated systems leaving limited opportunities for millennial graduates. The limited amount of jobs and ever-increasing sums of after-college debt has resulted in millennials being forced to settle for jobs that pay their bills, but do not require the four-year degree they earned. According to a McKinsey report, 48% of employed college grads in the U.S. are in jobs that require less than a four year degree.[4]

According to economist Henry Siu, the recession of 2009 pushed the decline of many well-paying jobs that involved repetitive and easily automated tasks, which made up 50% of the employment within the U.S at that time.[5] For example, the restaurant chain Chili’s has incorporated a system that allows customers to pay for their meal through a tablet on their table. This eliminates the wait time of your server getting your bill, receiving your form of payment, then returning with change or credit receipt. If Chili’s is incorporating automated payments at the table, will these automated systems soon enough take your order as well? Will Chili’s eliminate servers all together? Trends create domino effects. If Chili’s customer satisfaction increases from this automated payment trend, what other restaurant chains will hop on to this bandwagon?

Another example of innovative technology storming the hospitality industry is the app Open Table. Recently purchased by Priceline Group, Open Table is an app that allows customers to reserve a table at a restaurant from your phone or tablet.[6] This app eliminates the job duties of hostesses. Open Table erases the requirement to call the restaurant and speak to a host/hostess to make a reservation. The concerning thing about this app is that it is not its own restaurant chain, it is something that any restaurant can incorporate into their establishment. Another trend to cause a domino effect. If customers are making reservations online through Open Table, this will create less phone traffic to the restaurant not requiring as much staff to work behind the hostess’ stand. These examples illustrate Innovative technology taking part-time jobs from millennials one trend at a time.

It is very concerning to think, as a college student, that such a promising part time job like serving or hostessing could be just as hard to find in the future as a starting career is now. The hospitality industry is based of off the idea of someone catering to your needs, not something that should be automated. Human interaction makes the experience more personal compared to a computer screen. Not every opportunity to replace a person with a machine should be seized. Humans have specific skills that could not be replaced by a robotic function. Roger Wu, entrepreneur, writer, and coder, stated “Humans are good at thinking outside of the box: seeing connections when they are not there.”[7] People have passion, ambition, and creativity; something a computer can’t supply. When it comes to company problems and new ideas, you could not receive the same solutions and creativity from a computer that you would get from real people.  

In his article, Roger Wu also discusses how people are better at relationships and personal interaction than computers. He states, “Humans are social animals. Humans need to work together. Machines do not.”[8] A server could not be replaced by a computer to entertain customers. Customers are essential to a business, they need to feel like they are special and important to you and your business. No customer would be content being handed a tablet that introduces the restaurant and menu to them on their first visit to an establishment, they would feel unimportant or neglected. Personal interaction is convincing because people understand people, computers do not.

Advancements in technology has improved the lives of everyone, but has also discouraged the job market for the well educated millennial generation. Business owners and managers need to understand that not every task should become automated, especially in the hospitality industry. When people pay to be accommodated, they expect hands on, personal service that makes them feel special. Personal interaction is not something that can become automated because people are social creatures, and understand one another better than a machine would. With the higher education industry producing more educated generations, companies should feel more encouraged to hire people over a computer.

By: Kayla Ambrose 



[1]  The Council of Economic Advisors. 15 ECONOMIC FACTS ABOUT MILLENNIALS (2014): n. pag. Web
[2] Price, Michael. "How Over-Hyping a College Education Destroyed the Millennials." The Huffington Post., 17 Oct. 2014. Web. 04 Feb. 2016
[3] Mettler, Suzanne. "More Bad News for Millennials: College Is Actually Making Inequality Worse." 
Saloncom RSS. Salon, 15 Mar. 2014. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.
[4]  Adams, Susan. "Half Of College Grads Are Working Jobs That Don't Require A Degree." Forbes. 
 Forbes Magazine, 28 May 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.
 [5] Rotman, David. "Who Will Own the Robots?" MIT Technology Review. MIT, 16 June 2015. Web. 04  Feb. 2016.
[6] Caldicott, Sarah Miller. "A Tasty Innovation Mashup: Why Priceline Bought Open Table." Forbes. 
Forbes Magazine, 26 Aug. 2014. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.
[7] Wu, Roger. "The Three Things Humans Will Always Do Better than Robots." Quartz. N.p., 7 Oct. 
2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.
[8] Wu, Roger. "The Three Things Humans Will Always Do Better than Robots." 


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