A report by OECD says that previous forecasts may have exaggerated the impact of automation on jobs because the forecasts relied on a broad grouping together of jobs with the same title.
One of the most influential forecasts of the effects that automation could have on our jobs was the 2013 forecast by Oxford University. Its worrying conclusions at the time included the bleak prediction that 47% of jobs in the US in 2010 and 35% in the UK were at "high risk" of being automated over the following 20 years.
Another report by PwC from May 2017 also claimed that over 30% of UK jobs could be lost to automation by the year 2030. That report also said that 44% of jobs in manufacturing (where there are already many robots e.g. car manufacturing), especially those involving manual work, look likely to go to AI led software or robots.
Not That Bad
The new OECD report, however, paints a much more positive picture, and forecasts of the effects of automation on jobs are not as bad as in the original reports. For example, OECD figures suggest that only 12% rather than 35% of jobs are actually at high risk of being automated in the next 20 years
Why The Difference?
The OECD report forecasts a lesser impact by automation because, unlike the Oxford University report, it didn’t group together jobs with the same title, and, therefore, takes account of the differences between jobs with the same name.
Most And Least At Risk
The OECD report states that there is no measurable evidence that AI has been significantly impacting jobs requiring high levels of education and skill.
It is likely that lower-skilled jobs involving routine tasks are most at risk of automation, whereas jobs involving dealing with complex social relationships, using creativity and complex reasoning, and the physical manipulation of objects in a constantly changing work environment are least at risk of automation.
The report also pointed out that jobs in Anglo-Saxon, Nordic countries and the Netherlands are less likely to be automated than those in the south and east of Europe, Germany, Chile and Japan.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Most businesses are likely to be affected by some aspect of automation e.g. software or mechanical, in the near future, either themselves or through suppliers and stakeholders. There is an inevitability that AI and robotics will alter what jobs look like in the future, but it is also important to remember that they could provide huge advantages and opportunities for businesses in terms of reducing costs, and doing jobs cheaper and faster, while working day and night with no holiday.
As workers, we can try to insulate ourselves from the worst effects of automation by seeking more education / lifelong learning, and by trying to remain positive towards and adapting to changes, and by spotting and taking advantage of niches and other opportunities where we find them. Jobs which are highly varied, require specific human interaction, where people are required to have high levels of education, and where automation may be less acceptable e.g. education, could be less likely to be threatened by being replaced by AI and/or robots.
Exactly how many jobs will be lost to automation in what amount of time is virtually impossible to predict taking into account the advances in technology, together with the fact that AI bots learn, and get better at what they do as a result.
What kind of automation individual businesses adopt will, of course, depends upon a cost / benefit analysis compared to human workers, and whether automation is appropriate and is acceptable to their customers / users.
One interesting point that the new report highlighted was that young people may find it harder to find work in future because entry-level posts may have a higher risk of automation than jobs requiring more experience.