Jobs and the Future of Work

Nearly half of current jobs could be automated by 2055, according to a new report

AI is beginning to phase out traditional jobs. Image: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay (GERMANY - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY

Patrick Caughill
Associate Editor, Futurism
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Jobs and the Future of Work?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Future of Work is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Technological Transformation

Automation invasion

According to a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute, nearly half of all the work we do will be able to be automated by the year 2055. However, a variety of factors, including politics and public sentiment toward the technology, could push that back by as many as 20 years. An author of the report, Michael Chui, stressed that this doesn’t mean we will be inundated with mass unemployment over the next decades. “What we ought to be doing is trying to solve the problem of ‘mass redeployment,’” Chui tells Public Radio International (PRI). “How can we continue to have people working alongside the machines as we go forward?”

The report suggests that the move toward automation will also bring with it a global boost in productivity: “Based on our scenario modeling, we estimate automation could raise productivity growth globally by 0.8 to 1.4 percent annually.” Removing the capacity for human error and dips in speed due to illness, fatigue, or general malaise can help boost productivity in any task capable of being automated.

Many of the discussions on automation surround how it will impact manual labor. However, while it’s easy to see how robotics can take over precise and repetitive manufacturing tasks, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is allowing for more cognition-based tasks to be taken over by computers as well. Chui stated, “In about 60 percent of occupations, over 30 percent of the things that people do could be automated — either using robots or artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, all of these technologies that we’re hearing more and more about.”

 Figure 1
Image: McKinsey Global Institute

What about workers?

Chui believes that mass redeployment is how the workforce will endure the job loss. The report cites the shift from agriculture to industry as another point in history during which mass redeployment occurred. For example, over the course of the 20th century and into today, the United States has moved from having 40 percent of the workforce in agriculture to only less than two percent. “We don’t have 30 percent unemployment because, in fact, we found new things for people to do in the economy,” Chui says. “So we have … historically been able to do that.”

However, the switch from automation isn’t as clear-cut as one from agriculture to industry. The industrial revolution created new roles for masses of people along with machines having a bigger part to play in farming. Automation may create some new roles for some highly skilled workers, but others, especially low-skill workers, will be left without any inherent positions. This is why some experts are heralding universal basic income (UBI) as the only way to ensure the livelihoods of displaced workers.

During his administration, President Obama saw that automation and UBI would begin to enter into our political debates. We are in the infancy of these ideas, but serious conversations need to start if we want to be ready to preemptively tackle these issues before we’re forced to by circumstance.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Jobs and the Future of WorkEmerging Technologies
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Multinationals could help close parenthood wage gaps. This is how

Khadija van der Straaten, Niccolò Pisani and Ans Kolk

June 21, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum