Automation: Is it as Bad for Jobs as it Seems?
With the power of artificial intelligence (AI) being harnessed by countless companies to automate processes, there has been a lot of talk about the job losses that could occur across industries.
While new technologies will replace manual work (think manufacturing jobs) is the future of work really as bleak as some critics claim?
The bad news about automation
As AI evolves, some believe that it will steadily and inevitably take over large sectors of the workforce, bringing mass unemployment and social unrest.
Some roles are at particularly high risk of automation, particularly ones in data keeping (e.g. record clerks, office assistants), low-level customer interaction (e.g. hotel/travel booking, cashiers, food service workers), and other jobs with predictable, highly routine tasks (e.g. assembly line workers, dishwashers, drivers).
While AI-based automation will make some jobs redundant, will its impact be any more significant than that of non-AI based automation enabled by computers and robotics in the past? Are the concerns of today simply the same as the Luddites of the Industrial Revolution?
The opportunities created by automation – new jobs and future-proofed skillsets
While many jobs will be replaced by AI, the impact of automation is expected to be largely positive, with more new jobs being created to work with and manage the new technologies involved.
The American Economic Association says that no job can fully automated by pattern recognition and predictive modelling AI. Therefore, extrapolating AI’s ability to perform small aspects of a job to claim that AI will completely replace humans is not accurate.
A recent McKinsey Global Institute study estimates that by 2030, 60% of jobs will be made up of tasks that are least 30% of automatable, while less than 5% of jobs will be fully automatable.
The demands of the labour market are also set to change, particularly in the healthcare field due to ageing populations across many developed nations.
Healthcare jobs are practically impossible to automate fully due to the importance of face-to-face interactions and personal care, pointing towards an increased demand for healthcare professionals.
“The number of jobs in healthcare are projected to grow by 80-130 million by 2030 worldwide”
– WHO Global Health Observatory
Additionally, as AI continues to evolve, we will also need highly-skilled workers who are capable of working with new technologies. Automation will also allow people to focus on work that matters, such as allowing lawyers and doctors to focus on higher-level tasks while menial tasks are automated.
Previous technological changes in history have actually created higher levels of income and more jobs overall (think the Industrial Revolution). As long as this disruption is managed smoothly, the economy is expected to come out stronger than ever.
Measures that employers, educators and individuals can take
Employers can provide job training to workers who face displacement, either by training them in new skills relevant to the future of work, or by retraining individuals for current jobs.
Machine learning skills, STEM skills and human skills such as creativity, emotional intelligence and empathy should be focused on.
In the age of automation, those looking to change careers or young people working out what to study should carefully consider their education and training pathways.
The demand is strong, meaning students, graduates and job seekers need to start thinking strategically.
Degrees with strong job prospects well into the future include Public Health, Economics, Environmental Engineering, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Engineering, while some high-growth jobs to consider include Healthcare Professional, Data Scientist, Software Developer and Cybersecurity Expert.
It is also important for workers who are displaced by automation to quickly switch to sectors that are experiencing growth or roles that will always remain “human jobs”.
The future of employment will be one marked by vast technological changes. While some roles will suffer, proper management and retraining efforts should ensure that workers are moved into more future-proofed roles smoothly.
At the same time, this period of technological progress also presents exciting opportunities in the form of new jobs and lifelong learning. Are you ready for the age of automation?
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