20 Jan 2016 11:31am

Millions of jobs at risk from artificial intelligence

As many as 7.1 million jobs could be lost over the next five years due to the “fourth industrial revolution”, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has warned

The WEF’s Future of Jobs report found white-collar office and administrative roles face the greatest losses though redundancy and automation.

However, the loss is expected to be offset by the creation of 2.1 million new jobs, mostly in the computer and mathematical or architecture and engineering sectors.

This would lead to a net loss of 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies, the WEF said. In the UK, the ratio of jobs created per job lost is expected to be of 2.91.

The report also said the healthcare sector is expected to experience the greatest negative impact in terms of jobs in the next five years, followed by energy and financial services and investors.

Meanwhile, as 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist, 28% of the British top skills mix is expected to change by 2020.

At an industry level, the media, entertainment and information sector is expected to be the most stable over the next five years because it has already profoundly transformed itself in recent years.

The largest amount of skills disruption is expected to occur in the financial services and investors industry.

Social skills, such as persuasion, emotional intelligence and teaching others, will be in higher demand across industries than narrow technical skills, such as programming or equipment operation and control. As a result, technical skills will need to be supplemented with strong social and collaboration skills.

The report identified mobile internet, the changing nature of work and big data as the top drivers of change by 49%, 45% and 40% respectively.

Furthermore, the WEF found firms plan to pursue strategies such as investing in reskilling current employees (65%), supporting mobility and job rotation (39%), creating educational institutions (25%), targeting female talent and foreign (25% and 22% respectively) and offering apprenticeships (22%).

The gender gap is expected to widen as men represent a larger share of the overall job market.

Moreover, given women’s low participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) professionals, Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF, said “women stand to gain only one new STEM job for every 20 lost across other job families, whereas the ratio for men is one new job for every four lost elsewhere”.

Schwab said, “Without urgent and targeted action today to manage the near-term transition and build a workforce with futureproof skills, governments will have to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality, and businesses with a shrinking consumer base.”

The WEF surveyed 371 employers in some of the largest companies in the world across 15 developed and emerging economies.

Jessica Fino


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