The most efficient linerboard mill I know uses one third the production labor per ton of production of its contemporary competitors. This is due to higher levels of automation, particularly in the materials handling areas. Its cost of maintenance labor is about the same as its contemporaries. However, for all mills, continued automation of specific tasks will eventually bring maintenance labor costs down, too.
In society as a whole, automation is about to make dramatic changes to labor needs--not that this has not been going on since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Now, however, it is about to become very serious.
For instance, I think humans driving trucks, especially long haul trucks, will be a novelty by 2025. Some of you are probably yawning at this statement, for you see it coming, too.
Since 2008, here in the United States, we have experienced a decline in participation in the workforce. Some, including me, have blamed this on government social programs that provided disincentives to seek employment. This may be only partially true, for work opportunities are going away, and the jobs aren't necessarily being exported.
Computers have taken out many clerical jobs in the last 30 years. Automation has eliminated many labor intensive jobs. The march of technology has been a major factor in industrial development. Improved safety regulations have also played a role, as new regulations forced the automation of dangerous tasks.
All of this means, worldwide, that fewer people will be employed in the future. It simply does not take as much human labor as it did in the past to make both the essentials we need and the frivolous things we desire. It does not take as much intellectual power, either. Everyone can't become a researcher. Much of the population simply has neither the mental acuity nor the inclination to do research tasks. Governments will struggle to balance earning power and productivity. I fear upheaval is in our future until they get this right, and that upheaval is nearly upon us now.
In the end, I fear, we will find out the Luddites were right--they were just 200 years ahead of their time.