A new report from the World Economic Forum shows that the workforce is automating faster than expected, with employees working in financial services, mining and metals, and the automotive industry at greatest risk of displacement.
The forum’s latest Future of Jobs Report shows that nearly 21% of workers in the global financial services industry are at risk of becoming obsolete. (The study identifies the following jobs—data-entry clerks; accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll clerks; administrative assistants; and accountants and auditors—as “redundant” positions.) Some 19% of automotive workers and about a fifth, or nearly 20%, of mining and metals workers are at risk of displacement.
The industry whose workers face the lowest risk of being uprooted? Only 11% of health and healthcare workers, on average, face a risk of displacement.
Some 80% of business leaders say they are accelerating the pace to digitize work processes; half of employers expect to speed up the automation of positions. “Job creation is now slowing while job destruction is accelerating,” the authors conclude.
This newfound urgency to embrace new technologies can be attributed to COVID-19, which has prompted companies and governments to quickly move to digitize and automate many operations. An initial wave of tech deployments for safety and health reasons has paved the way for more drastic changes to the employment landscape at a faster-than-anticipated rate. “COVID-19 has accelerated the arrival of the future of work,” says Saadia Zahidi, managing director of the World Economic Forum. “Accelerating automation and the fallout from the COVID-19 recession has deepened existing inequalities across labor markets and reversed gains in employment made since the global financial crisis” in 2007 and 2008.
The report estimates that by 2025, automation will eliminate some 85 million jobs around the world. Technology will add another 97 million new jobs, many in healthcare, artificial intelligence, and content creation, according to the report’s authors. The report forecasts demands for workers in green economy jobs as well as professionals in engineering, cloud computing, and product development.
The report makes a strong case for an expansion of social protections for those displaced by the tech transformation of the job market. The authors write: “Given the large-scale disruption to workers from both the pandemic-driven recession and the accelerated pace of technology adoption, the question cannot be ‘if’ but should be ‘how’ to expand some of these essential protections.”