In 60% of occupations, at least one-third of activities could be automated, implying substantial workplace transformations for workers. In fact, while automation and artificial intelligence will boost productivity and economic growth, millions of people worldwide may need to switch occupations or upgrade skills, warns McKinsey in its Jobs lost: Jobs gained report.
The potential impact of automation on employment varies by occupation and sector, of course. Activities most susceptible include physical ones in predictable environments, including operating machinery and preparing fast food, while collecting and processing data can increasingly be done better and more quickly with machines.
“This could displace large amounts of labour, for instance, in mortgage origination, paralegal work, accounting, and back-office transaction processing,” says McKinsey.
Jobs in unpredictable environments – gardeners, plumbers, or providers of child- and eldercare – will generally see less automation by 2030, as they are technically difficult to automate and often poorly paid, making automation a less attractive business proposition.
McKinsey estimates that between 400 and 800 million individuals globally could be displaced by automation and need to find new jobs by 2030.
China faces the largest number of workers needing to switch occupations, up to 100 million if automation is adopted rapidly. Up to one-third of the 2030 workforce in the US and Germany, and nearly half in Japan will need to change jobs.
Image: Steve Mullins