Technological advances could kill 5 million jobs by 2020 – report

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The World Economic Forum said advances in technology, combined with socio-economic demographic changes, could lead to the net loss of 5 million jobs in 15 major economies in 2020. The report said the job loss predictions were “relatively conservative.”

“[A]s many as 7.1 million jobs could be lost through redundancy, automation or disintermediation, with the greatest losses in white-collar office and administrative roles,” the World Economic Forum stated in its ‘The Future of Jobs’ report released Monday. “The loss is predicted to be partially offset by the creation of 2.1 million jobs, mainly in…Computer and Mathematical or Architecture and Engineering.”

This first-of-its-kind report was released on the eve of the group’s economic forum where over 2,500 leaders from business, government and civil society will participate in an annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The future of jobs will be the central topic for discussion.

Referring to the transition as the “fourth industrial revolution,” the report said the jobs losses will come about because of developments in artificial intelligence, machine-learning robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology. Those developments will lead to widespread disruption not only in business models, but also in labor markets, “with enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape.”

Two areas of job growth identified through the survey were data analysts, to crunch the torrents of data generated and collected by organizations, and sales representatives skilled in commercializing and explaining a company’s offerings to clients and investors.

Other growth areas were a new type of human resources and organizational development specialists, as well as jobs involving engineering skills in materials, biochemical, nanotech and robotics.

The biggest job losses were expected to be in healthcare, followed by energy, financial services and investors. Big job creation is anticipated in information and communication technology, professional services and media, and entertainment.

The report said job losses would be felt equally between women (48 percent) and men (52 percent). But as men represented a larger share of the overall job market, women are expected to lose five jobs for every job gained, compared with men losing three jobs for every job gained.

Re-skilling employees was cited as the most popular workforce strategy for how best to deal with the “sweeping changes,” in addition to supporting mobility and job rotation.

Around 65 percent of children starting primary school today will end up working in jobs that don't yet exist, and their future training is crucial, according to the report. It also noted that the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years go, and that the pace is set to accelerate.

The report was based on a survey of senior executives from 350 companies across nine industries in 15 of the world’s largest economies, representing 65 percent of the global workforce.