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What impact will technology have over the longer term?

Technology is set to displace large numbers of jobs – both manual positions and more technical occupations. But many believe it will also create demand for ‘human’ skills such as empathy, analytical thinking and creativity.

We will need even greater numbers of new jobs to be created in the future, if we are not to suffer technological unemployment.

Andy Haldane, Chief Economist, Bank of England

Workplace digitisation by numbers

96.7%

0
%

of CEOs who are investing heavily in AI have publicly pledged to retain and retrain existing employees, according to a report from the World Economic Forum.

96.7%

0
 years

The average length of job tenure among US 25- to 34-year-olds, compared to 10.1 years among those aged 55–64, according to a study by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job-hopping enables adoption of new skills and capabilities and leads to faster ‘reformatting’ of the workforce.

200

0
.5m

The number of US citizens working in the freelance or temporary economy in 2017, again according to the BLS. Low-skilled gig workers are particularly vulnerable to unemployment.

93%

0
%

of talent managers surveyed by KellyOCG say gig workers make up over 40 per cent of their workforce.

Technology is racing ahead of the skills people have. This is the challenge of our times.

Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills, OECD

Estimates of how technology will affect the jobs market and sills vary wildly. PwC predicts three 'waves' of AI-driven labour change...

McKinsey believes 375 million workers (equivalent to 14 per cent of the global workforce) may eventually need to switch occupational categories due to digitisation, automation and AI; but its research also shows that less than 5 per cent of occupations are fully automatable using currently available technology. Those that are include meat packers, plasterers and stucco masons, and ophthalmic lab technicians; those that aren’t include historians, mining roof bolters and the clergy. Harvard economist James Bessen calculates that just one of 270 occupations listed in the 1950 US Census has been eliminated in the 60 years since (elevator operators).

The types of skills that are in demand as technology evolves are themselves not always technical, and include particularly human capabilities such as social and emotional skills, creativity and leadership.

The World Economic Forum, for example, has identified 10 skillsets for which demand will grow over the next three years - and 10 for which demand will fall.


Grow

1.
Analytical thinking and innovation

2.
Active learning and learning strategies

3.
Creativity, originality and initiative

4.
Technology, design and programming

5.
Critical thinking and analysis

6.
Complex problem-solving

7.
Leadership and social influence

8.
Emotional intelligence

9.
Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation

10.
Systems analysis and evaluation


Decline

1.
Manual dexterity, endurance and precision

2.
Memory, verbal, auditory and spatial abilities

3.
Management of financial and material resources

4.
Technology installation and maintenance

5.
Reading, writing, maths and active listening

6.
Management of personnel

7.
Quality control and safety awareness

8.
Co-ordination and time maangement

9.
Visual, auditory and speech abilities

10.
Technology use, monitoring and control

Only by changing education can our children compete with machines.

Jack Ma, Alibaba Founder

And research from Microsoft reveals that more than 500,000 highly-skilled workers will be needed to fill digital roles in the UK by 2022 – three times the number of UK computer science students who have graduated in the past decade.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) sees significant variance in the impact of automation across the world. It believes 33 per cent of jobs in Slovakia are highly automatable compared to 6 per cent in Norway. Jobs in Anglo-Saxon countries, Nordic countries and the Netherlands are less automatable than jobs in Eastern European countries, South European countries, Germany, Chile and Japan.

Further insights on the future of work

The future of work explained