Machines to do half of all work tasks by 2025, forecasts WEF

According to the WEF forecast, which draws from research that surveyed 300 of the world’s biggest companies, the increase in work being done by machines would create 97 million jobs worldwide, but make almost as many redundant.

50% of employers surveyed said they expected automation of some job roles to be accelerated, while 43% said that jobs being cut due to tech is likely.

While routine or manual jobs in administration were revealed by the WEF to be most at risk of being taken over by machines, the study found that new jobs would emerge in care, big data and the green economy.

A digital shift

Currently, according to the WEF, approximately a third of jobs are being carried out by machines, with the rest being done by humans.

However, Saadia Zahidi, managing director at the global think tank, has warned that accelerated automation and the economic fallout of Covid-19 have “deepened existing inequalities across labour markets and reversed gains in employment made since the global financial crisis in 2007-2008.

“It’s a double disruption scenario that presents another hurdle for workers in this difficult time. The window of opportunity for proactive management of this change is closing fast.”

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Samantha Humphries, security strategist at Exabeam, commented: “This report comes days after Exabeam’s 2020 Cybersecurity Professionals Salary, Skills and Stress Survey, which revealed 53% of respondents under the age of 45 agreed or strongly agreed that AI and ML are a threat to their job security.

“Despite 88% of cyber security professionals believing automation will make their jobs easier, younger staffers are more concerned that the technology will replace their roles than their veteran counterparts.

“The concern for automation among younger professionals in cyber security was surprising to us. In trying to understand this sentiment, we could partially attribute it to lack of on-the-job training using automation technology.

“As we noted earlier this year in our State of the SOC research, ambiguity around career path or lack of understanding about automation can have an impact on job security. It’s also possible that this is a symptom of the current economic climate or a general lack of experience navigating the workforce during a global recession.”

Addressing the skills gap

In response to the WEF’s forecast, Agata Nowakowska, area vice-president EMEA at Skillsoft, explains the need for employers to oversee upskilling initiatives.

“The wider ramifications of digitalisation projects are proving profound, representing a big problem for employees, who face being left out in the cold due to a lack of digital skills and proficiencies,” said Nowakowska. “More alarming still is the growing concern that people will become increasingly displaced by machines in the workplace.

“Roles most susceptible to automation include manual repetitive tasks, such as operating machinery and data processing, but research shows the trend towards automation is already proving especially challenging for women, with significant implications for gender equality in the workplace.

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“The challenge for employers is to make sure that everyone, regardless of gender, age or location, shares in the spoils of new technology. Instituting lifelong learning for employees that ensures, reskilling will prove the answer to tectonic shifts in the job market. Giving workers the opportunity to learn new skills that will increase their ability to shift into new roles.

“Organisations will need to think holistically about managing reskilling, upskilling and job transitioning. In addition to opening up technical training and development to a wider candidate base – including supporting more female employees to development the skills required to fill identified gaps – assessing the digital transformation requirements of the enterprise should help to direct investment priorities for training and development.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.