Digitisation to cost 75m jobs, create 133m new ones

Digitisation to cost 75m jobs, create 133m new ones
Automation and robots will take on over 50% of workplace tasks by 2022, says WEF.
Published: 18 September 2018 - 1:08 a.m.
By: Mark Sutton

Automation will see half of all current workplace tasks performed by machines by 2025, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum.

The WEF Report, Future of Jobs Survey 2018, predicts that 75 million jobs will be ‘displaced' by automation and the fourth industrial revolution, but 133 million new jobs will be created.

The report surveyed of HR heads and high-level strategy executives from large companies in 20 countries, accounting for 70% of global GDP.

Surveyed companies reported that today, 71% of total current task hours are performed by humans, compared to 29% by machines. By 2022, this average is expected to shift to 58% task hours performed by humans, 42% by machines.

The report finds that 54% of employees of large companies would need significant re- and up-skilling in order to fully harness the growth opportunities offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. At the same time, just over half of the companies surveyed said they planned to reskill only those employees that are in key roles while only one third planned to reskill at-risk workers.

While nearly 50% of all companies expect their full-time workforce to shrink by 2022 as a result of automation, almost 40% expect to extend their workforce generally and 28% expect automation to create new roles in their enterprise.

"It is critical that business take an active role in supporting their existing workforces through reskilling and upskilling, that individuals take a proactive approach to their own lifelong learning, and that governments create an enabling environment to facilitate this workforce transformation. This is the key challenge of our time," said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Among the set of roles set to experience increasing demand across all industries are data analysts and scientists, software and applications developers, and ecommerce and social media specialists, all of which roles that are significantly based on or enhanced by technology. Roles that leverage distinctly ‘human skills,' such as sales and marketing professions, innovation managers and customer service workers, are also set to experience increasing demand. Jobs expected to become redundant include routine-based white-collar roles, such as data entry clerks, accounting and payroll clerks.

While the report authors said that they expect net positive job growth, there will be a significant shift in the quality, location, format and permanency of new roles, with businesses shifting to more use of contractors doing task-specialized work, across different locations and different terms of employment.

All industries expect to have sizeable skills gaps, with average skills instability of 42%, highlighting the scale of the challenge in preparing today's workers for changes within their current roles and the emerging jobs of the future. Technology proficiency, such as technology design and programming, and distinctly human skills, such as creativity, critical thinking and persuasion, are among the competences that will be sharply increasing in importance.

"Companies need to complement their automation plans with comprehensive augmentation strategies. For businesses to remain dynamic, differentiated and competitive in an age of machines, they must in fact invest in their human capital. There is both a moral and economic imperative to do so. Without proactive approaches, businesses and workers may lose out on the economic potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution," said Saadia Zahidi, Head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society at the World Economic Forum.

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