More sales, fewer jobs: In 2017, Amazon laid off thousands of retail workers and replaced them with robots

Thursday, December 21, 2017
By Paul Martin

by: Isabelle Z.
Thursday, December 21, 2017

Any time the topic comes up of using robots for logistics, warehouse workers are told there is no need to be concerned because robots cannot completely replace humans. While we’d all like to believe that’s true, the 24,000 workers who have found themselves redundant at Amazon as its robot workforce grows would surely beg to differ.

According to Quartz, Amazon has added 55,000 robots so far this year. This is a marked increase over the 45,000 robots they had at the end of last year. At the same time, they’ve had a decline of 24,000 human workers. Is it just a coincidence? Experts don’t think so.

According to projections by Quartz, machines could end up making up 20 percent of Amazon’s total employee base by year’s end. This is part of the reason the company is so successful and that its investors are so pleased, but it’s a far different story for those who work there.

It’s not just Amazon workers feeling the pinch, by the way. Retail workers in industries that compete with Amazon, such as bookstores, are also expected to drop in number by one percent year-over-year in the first yearly decline noted since the year 2009. It might sound like a tiny fraction, but it accounts for 170,000 job losses.

The highly efficient robots used by Amazon far outperform humans. According to CNBC, one human Amazon worker needs an average of 90 minutes to find a particular product and then package it, while robots can bring that time down to just 13 minutes.

Cities vying for Amazon’s new headquarters

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