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Highlights

GAO discussed automation in the workplace and its impact on the labor force, focusing on: (1) the importance of automation to productivity and the economy; (2) barriers and stimulators to the rapid diffusion and use of automation; (3) the potential impact of automation on the work force; and (4) the difficulties of labor-market planning. GAO warned against over-reliance on foreign producers and suggested integration of similar manufacturing technologies. Barriers to increased automation involve technical, financial, organizational, and social factors while national economic problems become stimulators for increased use of technology. In assessing the impact of automation on the work force, GAO addressed the question of how rapidly automation will spread and how sophisticated and integrated automated systems will be. GAO noted that evidence suggests that the impact of automation may be more gradual than popular opinion expects and that short-term work-force displacement and skill shifts are already occurring and will continue. GAO concluded that growth in high technology occupations may not have a major impact on total employment but will have a profound impact on many existing jobs. Regarding the difficulties in labor-market planning, GAO stated that, while sophisticated analytical techniques are useful and necessary for accurate planning, employing them is costly and requires cost-benefit analysis.

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