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The future of work in an an automated world
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The future of work in an an automated world

With all the advancements in robotics and automation, what's going to happen to the workers? Are we all going to be displaced? Not all of us, but a recent report shows that as much as 50 percent of the work we do today could be automated. There will be new opportunities, but will we be ready for them?

By 2030, as many as 72 million jobs could be supplanted by automation, according to McKinsey Global Institute's recent report Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation (PDF).

The reports notes that although about half of all work activities have the potential to be automated, factors that slow adaption mean that the likelihood of work activities that will be displaced could range as high as one-third. And while many work activities will become obsolete, new occupations that do not exist today will emerge.

"Even if there is enough work to ensure full employment by 2030, major transitions lie ahead that could match or even exceed the scale of historical shifts out of agriculture and manufacturing. Our scenarios suggest that by 2030, 75 million to 375 million workers (3 to 14 percent of the global workforce) will need to switch occupational categories. Moreover, all workers will need to adapt, as their occupations evolve alongside increasingly capable machines. Some of that adaptation will require higher educational attainment, or spending more time on activities that require social and emotional skills, creativity, high-level cognitive capabilities and other skills relatively hard to automate. "

The report is detailed - it's 160 pages, covering such themes as the impact of automation on work, lessons from history on technology and employment, scenarios for employment growth (page 55), the implications for skills and wages and managing the workforce transition (page 105). It outlines priorities for governments, businesses (page 125) and individuals.

For a snapshot of key issues in the report, see the article What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages, which covers:

  • What impact will automation have on work?
  • What are possible scenarios for employment growth?
  • Will there be enough work in the future?
  • What will automation mean for skills and wages?
  • How do we manage the upcoming workforce transitions?

It includes an interactive feature that estimates the percent of change in labor demand for various professions from managers, laborers, educators, healthcare workers and more.

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