Rise of the Robots Will Eliminate More Than 5 Million Jobs

Robots to the Rescue in Davos
  • WEF report says administrative and office roles are at risk
  • Davos meetings to focus on technology and labor markets

Over five million jobs will be lost by 2020 as a result of developments in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological change, according to World Economic Forum research.

About 7 million jobs will be lost and 2 million gained as a result of technological change in 15 major developed and emerging economies, WEF founder Klaus Schwab and managing board member Richard Samans said in "The Future of Jobs." The findings are taken from a survey of 15 economies covering about 1.9 billion workers, or about 65 percent of the world’s total workforce.

Klaus Schwab
Klaus Schwab
Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The blurred lines between physical, digital and biological spheres amount to a Fourth Industrial Revolution, according to the WEF, which will address the idea as the idea at its annual meeting of policy makers, academics and economists in Davos, Switzerland. It’s already a hot topic thanks in part to books such as ‘The Second Machine Age’ and ‘The Rise of The Robots,’ while Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane has warned that the millions of jobs at risk from automation are creating issues officials need to address.

"To prevent a worst-case scenario -- technological change accompanied by talent shortages, mass unemployment and growing inequality -- reskilling and upskilling of today’s workers will be critical," the authors said. "It is simply not possible to weather the current technological revolution by waiting for the next generation’s workforce to become better prepared."

Jobs Warning

Administrative and office jobs will account for two-thirds of the losses, with "routine white-collar office functions at risk of being decimated," and there will be gains in computer, mathematical, architecture and engineering-related fields. Women will be disproportionately hit by the changes because of their low participation in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The countries covered by the survey included Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S.

"It is critical that businesses take an active role in supporting their current workforces through re-training, that individuals take a proactive approach to their own lifelong learning and that governments create the enabling environment, rapidly and creatively, to assist these efforts," the authors said.

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