As automation and online work gain ground, organizers of the annual Davos forum are projecting that employers would split work equally between machines and people by 2025, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating changes in the labor market.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) in a report released yesterday said it expects that a new division of labor between humans and machines would upend and eliminate about 85 million jobs globally across 15 industries. However, it also expects that 97 million new roles would emerge in sectors like artificial intelligence, content creation, and “the care economy” involving children and older people.
Two years ago, the forum predicted that more jobs would be created, 133 million, and fewer lost, 75 million.
“In essence, the rate of job destruction has gone up and the rate of job creation has gone down,” WEF managing director Saadia Zahidi said. “The good news is that overall, the jobs that are being created still are in greater numbers than the jobs that are being destroyed. But the rate has changed and that’s obviously going to make it difficult for workers to find their next role.”
The forum said that jobs involving data entry, accounting and administrative support are set to decline, while it pointed to upsides for “front-line workers” like nurses, and grocery store and care workers who have shown their importance during the COVID-19 crisis.
“For those workers, there may be some good news in the future because there will be upward wage pressure and much more recognition of the type of work they do,” Zahidi said.
However, sectors like aviation and tourism, which have been “on pause” during the crisis, could come under intense pressure if the pandemic continues, leading to permanent job losses, she said.
Meanwhile, automation is taking on a greater importance in the global economy.
“When you look at the tasks of today, in just another five years, by 2025, those tasks will be equally done by machines,” Zahidi said. “However, that doesn’t mean that new jobs won’t emerge and they will certainly be emerging, from all that we are able to find in the data.”
The report, which also analyzed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the US labor market from February to May, found that most displaced workers were on average young, women and lower-waged employees.
The pandemic has had a far worse impact on people with lower education than the 2008 financial crisis and is more likely to deepen inequalities, the report said.
The report calls on governments to do more to help workers by strengthening social safety nets, boosting educational offerings and providing incentives to invest in the jobs of tomorrow.
Conducted with private-sector partners, WEF’s report is based on projections from business executives in human relations and strategy divisions, representing nearly 300 companies worldwide that employ about 8 million people.
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