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More U.S. Workers Fear Technology Making Their Jobs Obsolete – Gallup Poll

September 17, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fear of becoming obsolete, or FOBO, remains uncommon among U.S. workers, but it has grown more in the past two years than at any time in Gallup's trend since 2017. Twenty-two percent now say they worry that technology will make their job obsolete, up seven percentage points from the prior reading in 2021. The figure had previously varied between 13% and 17%, with little upward movement in the trend.
The recent rise in people’s concern about their job becoming obsolete is owing almost entirely to college-educated workers, among whom the percentage worried has jumped from 8% to 20%. At the same time, worry among workers without a college degree is virtually unchanged at 24%. As a result, whereas non-college-educated workers were previously much more concerned about technological replacement than college-educated workers, these groups now express similar levels of concern.
Concern about technology making one’s job obsolete is also up more among younger than older workers, widening the generational gap evident in 2021. It has also increased more among those making less than $100,000 than those earning $100,000 or more.
Meanwhile, concern has increased equally among men and women, with the two groups expressing similar fear levels in both years.
The latest results are from Gallup’s Aug. 1-23 Work and Education poll.
Although more workers than before may be looking over their shoulders at artificial intelligence and other technological advancements, a reduction in benefits remains their most common job-related concern of the six Gallup tracks. Nearly a third (31%) say they are worried they could lose benefits in the near future. The next-most-common job worry, cited by 24%, is having their wages reduced.
A cluster of risks are worrisome to roughly one in five workers. In addition to being replaced by technology (22%), this includes being laid off (20%) and having their hours cut back (19%). The least worrisome risk to workers is having their job moved overseas (7%).
Of these concerns, only fear that technology could threaten their job has increased to a statistically significant degree since 2021. Worry about the other five job fears remain well below their high points that occurred after the Great Recession, from mid-2009 to mid-2013.
While not high, worker concerns about other disruptions are, for the most part, not at their lowest either. The one exception is worry about one’s company moving jobs overseas. At 7%, this is the lowest in Gallup’s trend by one point. The percentages concerned about being laid off or having their wages or hours reduced were significantly lower in the mid-2000s, while 2019 marked the low for concern about benefits being reduced.
Developments in computers’ ability to mimic human language, recently made clear with the release of ChatGPT last November, may be changing the stereotype of what computers can do in the workplace. It is no longer only about robots standing in for humans in warehouses and on assembly lines but has expanded to online programs conducting sophisticated language-based work, including writing computer code.
Amid such change, it’s understandable that U.S. workers, particularly those with college degrees, are more worried about what technology could mean for their careers. Nevertheless, for now, fewer than one in four think the threat is imminent, and with Americans still feeling mostly positive about the labor market, workers are no more worried today than they were two years ago about their basic job and income security.
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Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.
View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 1-23, 2023, with a random sample of 1,014 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the sample of 491 adults who are employed full or part time, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 80% cellphone respondents and 20% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
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