As many as 375 million workers around the world may need to learn new skills or switch jobs entirely by 2030 thanks to automation, according to a new McKinsey Global Institute Report. The good news is that, ironically, the very technology that’s pushing people out of their jobs could also push them into roles that rely on their humanity, like taking care of children or the elderly.
Automation will impact people around the world, and specific occupations, differently. But the gist of the McKinsey report is that technology that’s capable of mimicking human skills will likely be working alongside people or replace them entirely in the near future. Think of “cars that drive themselves, machines that read X-rays and algorithms that respond to customer-service inquiries,” according to an article from McKinsey introducing the report.
The report analyzed how the workforce will change due to automation through 2030 based on three different scenarios: if automation catches on slowly, at medium speed, or quickly. The authors found that by 2030, the slowest model puts the number of people displaced from their jobs at fewer than 10 million. The fastest model puts that number north of 375 million.
Automation will disproportionately impact roles that are physical, like driving trucks or preparing fast food. It won’t have as large of an impact on jobs that involve social skills like managing others, as machines aren’t great at that yet. And jobs in what the article refers to as “unpredictable environments,” like gardening, plumbing or taking care of other people, will see less change because they’re harder to automate.
Automation is already changing the workforce. Around 50 percent of current jobs around the world could theoretically be automated today, and 6 out of 10 jobs globally include tasks of which 30 percent could be automated today.
All of this means that in the not-so-distant future, many people in the middle of their careers and/or lives will have to learn new skills to adapt to a changing workplace. Workers of the future will “spend more time on activities that machines are less capable of, such as managing people, applying expertise, and communicating with others.” That means they’ll be doing less routine manual labor and processing data, and instead learn new skills: “more social and emotional skills and more advanced cognitive capabilities such as logical reasoning and creativity.”
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