Automation is billed to relieve humanity of mundane and dangerous labour, so much so that one in five UK full-time employees, in fact, will likely lose their job altogether by 2030 because of it.
A new report examining “substantial workplace transformations” which could arise in scenarios of automated tech uptake has found up to 14% of the global workforce will have to change occupational categories by 2030. As well as redundancies, automation technology will likely induce “changes for all workers” as the majority of jobs could be partially automated, according to McKinsey Global Institution.
Globally, up to 800 million individuals may be pushed out of their full-time employment by automation tech by 2030, based on the most rapid adoption scenario. Of these, between 75 and 375 million people will need to gain new skills and change their type of job altogether.
The average age range for British workers displaced will be 40-45, in line with other major economies such as the US, Australia, Singapore and China. In Spain, Italy, Germany, South Korea and Japan, where displacement rates are up to 6% greater than the UK, the age range rises to 45-50.
Up to 30% of hours worked globally could be replaced by automated tech by 2030, depending on the speed of adoption. Researchers also take into account that an average of close to zero hours of work could be automated, depending on wages, funding and national policies — for this reason, researchers settle on 15% as a midpoint estimate.
While researchers found just 5% of occupations could be fully automated, around 60% of occupations consist of activities of which one third could be replaced by automation. Analysts predict “good outcomes” if policy makers and business leaders “embrace automation’s benefits” and manage worker transitions as they arise.
Forms of labour most susceptible to automation include physical activities in predictable environments, for instance, operating machinery or preparing fast food. Increasingly, machines are able to outperform humans in collecting and processing data by completing this work better and faster. Therefore, jobs such as mortgage origination, paralegal work, accounting, and back-office transaction processing could be done by robot employees in the future.
McKinsey’s research foresees a number of career areas which will increase in demand including caring in ageing societies, work in energy efficiency, producing goods and services for the expanding consuming class, as well as the investment in technology, infrastructure and buildings needed in all countries – particularly those which are developing.
For those currently in the workplace, midcareer job training will be “essential”, as will flexible worker redeployment. In addition, enterprise leaders and policy makers are urged to support the workforce in transition, helping those displaced to find new employment and adapting income as part of this.
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The report also highlights that automation will create new occupations that do not exist today, much as technologies of the past have done. However, data scientists stress the need for additional investments in industries such as infrastructure and construction to help reduce risk of unemployment in advanced economies. A priority must be to ensure continued demand growth and economic dynamism, in order to generate sufficient jobs.
The research also noted that the UK is one of the few countries to have introduced coding classes into education of children aged five or seven. As well as grounding in logic, debugging and algorithms, findings suggest “a strong liberal arts education” would be indispensable for the future job market.
Data scientists underline that further research is needed, and their January and November 2017 reports form part of “a rich mosaic of potential shifts”, rather than “the final word”.