Technology Eats Coal Jobs

“Stop the war on coal.” This Trump statement about coal made me research a little and I found two graphs that show the dilemma with (perceived) simple solutions and the complex reality.

From its peak around 1920 the number of people working in the coal business declined by about 90% to less than 100k people today. In the U.K. the decline during that period was even more dramatic with 4,000 people left today after close to 1.2m people employed in 1920.

US Coal Miners 1890 – 2014


US Coal Production 1890 – 2014


But in no way do the number of employed people reflect the output of the coal industry. During that same period the annual production of coal almost doubled. Putting those numbers* in relation gives you an idea about the impact of technology on the coal industry:

  • 1920: 600 million tons / 800,000 workers = 750 tons per worker
  • 2014: 1,000 million tons / 100,000 works = 10,000 tons per worker

You can find similar stats on manufacturing, agriculture or several other jobs. Soon you’ll read the same about cap drivers, bank clerks. I know it sucks to be fired but listening to and believing in lies is not helping. If you like to keep your job, find one that has a future. Coal has none!

A little anecdote: On January 12, 1882 the first coal-fired powerplant went online in London. On April 22, 2017 the UK had its first 24h coal-free period since the use of fossil fuel began.

Fore more details: Check dataset provided by the McKinsey Global Institute. 

* I am using rough estimates based on the graphs.

PS: The picture has nothing to do with this post but I was experimenting with the blur effect of the iPhone 🙂

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