Sep 14, 2023 - Economy

New office lingo: FOBO hits American workers

Data: Gallup; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Gallup; Chart: Axios Visuals

A rising number of American workers fear technology will make their jobs obsolete in the near future, according to a Gallup survey released Monday.

Why it matters: College-educated workers who are hyper-aware of AI and other technological advances are struggling with FOBO, the fear of becoming obsolete.

  • "The introduction of ChatGPT in the past year seems like the obvious catalyst in worker concern about the threat technology poses to their job security," Lydia Saad, Gallup's director of U.S. Social Research, told Axios.

State of play: Currently 22% of U.S. workers fear their jobs will become obsolete in the near future due to technology, the survey found. It's a 7-point increase from 15% in 2021.

  • The jump is being driven "almost entirely" by college-educated workers.
  • Between 2021 and 2023, the share of non-college-educated workers concerned about the issue rose from 22% to 24%. But among college-educated workers, it shot up from 8% to 20%.

Between the lines: The survey results point to a widening generational gap. Younger workers aged 18-34 are more concerned than their older counterparts that technology will make their jobs obsolete.

  • Workers making less than $100,000 annually are also more likely to be concerned.

The big picture: Technological advances, gargantuan student debt burdens and changing workplaces are changing how Americans think about higher education.

  • A December analysis from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management pointed out that college degrees don't insulate workers from technology advancement.
  • A Wall Street Journal-NORC poll in March found that 56% of Americans believed that a four-year college degree isn't worth the cost.
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