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Machines and the Jobs of the Future

AI and robotics will revolutionize how we work, but they won’t make us mortals obsolete.

Around this time last year, millions of people across the world started losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The good news is that countries with robust economies like the US have recovered, but we still have a long way to go before confidently saying that things are back to normal.

For some people, the job they used to do may not be there for them to come back to. This could be the result of the challenges brought on by the pandemic or automation.

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According to the World Economic Forum, remote work is here to stay, and automation is growing faster than anyone expected. However, this is nothing new.

The Way We Work Changed Again and Again for Centuries

It happened before and will certainly happen again. For example, the production of stockings was revolutionized by mechanization in the 16th century. 

In the 19th century, steam-powered machines optimized mills and factories and surpassed the output of products previously hand-crafted by artisan workers.

The same happened just four decades ago when robotics entered the automotive industry. In this scenario, robots took over assembly-line tasks such as spray-painting and welding. 

Not everyone was happy, but life moved on. It didn’t lead to unemployment. Instead, it shifted humans into a supervisory role. Going forward, we can expect something similar. 

What Jobs Are at Risk of Automation?

Research suggests that more jobs will be created over the next few years than those lost to automation. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), robotics and automation will create 97 million new jobs. 

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However, it’s also vital to note that the workforce (in general) is at risk of widespread than in other areas. The time humans and machines spend on tasks at work is forecasted to be equal by 2025.

According to the IMF and the World Economic Forum, jobs like data entry clerks, administrative secretaries, and payroll clerks (and more) will become increasingly obsolete.

Simultaneously, there will be significant demand for jobs like data analysts and scientists, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) specialists, and big data specialists (and so on). 

Source: IMF

Businesses that want to remain competitive will concentrate on upskilling their workers. Of the others set to keep their current roles, almost half will be required to retrain their core skills over the next five years.

The public sector also needs to provide robust support to encourage reskilling and upskilling. This is because not every business can afford to reskill or upskill at-risk or displaced workers. This could take the form of incentives like tax breaks and more.   

While the last few paragraphs above may give you some cause for concern, it really shouldn’t. At least, not yet. 

The Long Road Ahead

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), machines, including various forms of automation, have the potential to contribute as much as $15 trillion to global GDP by 2030. This additional wealth will help generate the demand for many new jobs (while displacing a few old ones).

The analysts at PwC believe that automation at the workplace will come in three waves over the next 20 years:

  • Wave 1: algorithmic (in the early 2020s)
  • Wave 2: augmentation (in the latter half of the 2020s)
  • Wave 3: autonomy (from early to mid-2030s)

PwC forecasts relatively low displacement of existing jobs, just 3% over the next couple of years. However, as automation technologies and supporting infrastructure mature, job displacement could rise.

Source: PwC

In about 15 years, up to 30% could be automated. This scenario might affect males who engage in manual tasks (like truck driving) for a living. In the second wave, more women are at risk of displacement as females make up the majority of clerical and administrative workers. 

In the short term, industries like financial services may see the most disruption as algorithms are more accurate, efficient, and fast when it comes to analysis and assessments. In the long term, it’ll be the transportation industry that’ll see the most changes with autonomous driverless vehicles replacing humans on a large scale.

In contrast, healthcare will probably be the least affected. This is because there’s a greater reliance on social skills and (of course) the human touch. AI and robots will likely work together with humans rather than replacing doctors and nurses. It’ll be more or less the same in the education sector. 

What important to note here is that these types of changes happen from time to time. While there might be some resistance, humans have always adapted and kept working regardless of the challenges they faced in the beginning.

In the same vein, AI and robotics will revolutionize how we work, but they won’t make us mortals obsolete. Instead, the challenges posed by these machines and algorithms will make us better, free us to do more meaningful work, and dominate the fourth industrial revolution.

Do you need help automating mundane tasks to enhance productivity and boost your bottom line? Schedule a commitment-free consultation now.  

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