Apr 6, 2019

Help wanted: Digital janitor

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Technology is giving rise to a new crop of middle-skill jobs for the millennial generation — but these are without the stability, pay or career ladders of the past.

The big picture: The first wave of automation-fueled job losses hollowed out middle-skill work — manufacturing positions that required some education, but not a college degree, and led to lucrative, lifelong careers. That left behind jobs mostly at the high- and low-skill extremes.

Among these new, middle-skill jobs is the "digital janitor," says Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future. "The more data we produce, the more digital detritus we throw out there," she says. And someone will need to clean it up.

  • Think Facebook content moderators and YouTube video screeners. "As good as AI is and will be, it will require these very human skills of discretion to be able to do that work," says Gorbis.

But these jobs come with issues.

  • Though they are physically safer than the manufacturing jobs of the 20th century, they can be highly stressful, exhausting and even lead to PTSD, as The Verge's Casey Newton reports in an investigation of the lives of Facebook's moderators.
  • Those digital janitors earn $28,200 a year. And such workers are typically hired on a part-time or contract basis.
  • When millennials are earning $15 an hour, or $31,000 a year, they are regarded as middle wage, even though that would not be sufficient to support the accouterments of the traditional middle-class American lifestyle.

But, but, but: These don't have to be "bad jobs" forever for millennials, Gorbis notes. Manufacturing jobs seemed like bad jobs before labor unions and regulators stepped in to improve pay and conditions, she says. "We made them into good jobs."

The bottom line: In the future, "I think there will likely still be lots of jobs for people with less education," says Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed. "The bigger questions are: What will those jobs pay? Will they have benefits and a predictable schedule? Will they lead to careers?"

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11 p.m. ET: 721,817 — Total deaths: 33,968 — Total recoveries: 151,204.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 11 p.m. ET: 142,328 — Total deaths: 2,489 — Total recoveries: 4,767.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Infections number tops 140,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The novel coronavirus has now infected over 142,000 people in the U.S. — more than any other country in the world, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: COVID-19 had killed over 2,400 people in the U.S. by Sunday night. That's far fewer than in Italy, where over 10,000 people have died — accounting for a third of the global death toll. The number of people who've recovered from the virus in the U.S. exceeded 2,600 Sunday evening.

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There are now more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 33,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.

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