That automation will take jobs is a workforce constant. For instance, in 1949 there were 182,500 people employed as telephone operators. It was the peak year. But by last year the number of operators employed by wired carriers had declined to 2,170, according to federal labor data.

Something similar is on the verge of taking place in back-office IT services jobs, due to automation improvements, with dramatic job cutbacks being forecast, according to a survey done of representatives from about 170 global sourcing firms. This includes the IT services industry.

Nearly a third of those surveyed said they expect job cuts of 25% or higher of their current workforces by 2020, according to a conference poll by the Information Services Group (ISG), a research and advisory services firm.

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