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World Economic Forum: Automation ‘To Cost 5.1 Million Jobs’

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Robotics, artificial intelligence and other developments are to contribute to a net loss of jobs, finds the World Economic Forum

Labour market changes brought on by increasing automation will lead to a net loss of about 5.1 million jobs over the next five years in 15 major countries, according to projections published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Monday.

The forecast, released to coincide with the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos this week, predicts that technical changes such as robotics and artificial intelligence will contribute to the loss of 7.1 million jobs, offset by the creation of 2 million new roles.

‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’

women code database programming tech © Semisatch ShutterstockThe figures appear in a report titled “The Future of Jobs”, which centres on the impact of what the WEF calls the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” – including developments across artificial intelligence, machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology.

The “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is also the overall theme of this year’s meeting.

The report covers 15 countries that make up about 65 percent of the world’s workforce. Its findings correspond to projections by the UN’s International Labour Organisation of an increase in global unemployment of 11 million by 2020.

Two-thirds of the WEF’s projected job losses are expected to occur in the office and administrative sectors, due to increased automation.

Analysed by industry, the report foresees the most job losses in healthcare, due to the rise of telemedicine, followed by the energy and financial services industries.

Gender gap

New technologies will also create demand for certain skills, including data analysts and specialist sales representatives, the WEF found.

Women are to feel the job losses more than men, as they are more often employed in low-growth of declining areas carrying out sales, office and administrative tasks, the WEF said. The report projected women would see five jobs lost for each job created, while men would see three lost for each new job.

Similarly, findings released by Infosys at the forum found that 40 percent of 16 to 25-year-olds across developed and emerging countries believe automation will eliminate their current job within the next decade. In the UK, the figure rises to 45 percent, Infosys said.

The “Amplifying Human Potential: Education and Skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution” study, based on a survey of 8,700 young people in nine emerging and developed countries, found that 62 percent of British respondents were willing to learn software development in order to adapt to the changes, but this figure lagged behind those in the US and four major emerging countries.

Only about half of those polled in the UK said they felt the education they had received was helpful for their current job, while 77 percent said they had to learn new skills not taught at school or university in order to carry out their current role.

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