Rise of the robots ‘will cost 5m jobs’

More than five million people will lose their jobs to robots by 2020 in a “fourth industrial revolution” sweeping the globe as artificial intelligence changes the workplace beyond recognition, according to the World Economic Forum.

Critical thinking, emotional reasoning and “active listening” will become the new core skills demanded by employers as robots take over jobs that require more “narrow skills” such as administration or clerical work, it says.

The forum’s 157-page study claims that seven million jobs will be lost to robots and other technological innovations while two million will be created.

“Developments in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology, to name just a few, are all building on and amplifying one another,” said its authors, Klaus Schwab, WEF founder, and Richard Samans, its former managing director. “This will lay the foundation for a revolution more comprehensive and all-encompassing than anything we have ever seen.”

The white collar worker will be the biggest casualty, with the loss of 4.8 million roles in administration and clerical work. Almost seven in ten children in primary school today will ultimately find themselves working in jobs that do not yet exist, according to an estimate.

The rise of the machines will also affect gender equality at work. Over the next five years, men will see three jobs lost for every one gained, while women face five jobs lost for every one gained. Women are said to be more vulnerable as they are underrepresented in engineering, architecture, IT, software development and analytics — areas that will generate new jobs.

The report is based on a survey of HR and strategy executives at 350 of the world’s largest companies spread across 15 economies with 65 per cent of the world’s workforce. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is the theme of the WEF’s annual meeting, which begins tomorrow in the Swiss resort of Davos.

Winners and losers

Jobs lost
4,759,000 clerical/administration 
1,609,000 Manufacturing and production 
497,000 Construction and mining 
151,000 Sports and creative industries 
109,000 Lawyers 
40,000 Mechanics/maintenance

Jobs created
492,000 Banking, accounting, insurance 
416,000 Management 
405,000 IT/data analysis 
339,000 Architecture and engineering 
303,000 Sales 
66,000 Teaching and training

Source: World Economic Forum

About Steve Young

Steve Young is the Managing Partner of Downtown Recruitment who are based in Thame, Oxfordshire. Downtown Recruitment provide a wide variety of temporary and permanent staff to the local area covering a wide range of disciplines across the commercial and industrial sectors. View Downtown Recruitment's main website
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