In the next four years, more than 75 million jobs may be lost as companies shift to more automation, according to new estimates by the World Economic Forum. But the projections have an upside: 133 million new jobs will emerge during that period, as businesses develop a new division of labor between people and machines.
The Future of Jobs Report arrives as the rising tide of automation is expected to displace millions of American workers in the long term and as corporations, educational institutions and elected officials grapple with a global technological shift that may leave many people behind. The report, published Monday, envisions massive changes in the worldwide workforce as businesses expand the use of artificial intelligence and automation in their operations. Machines account for 29 percent of the total hours worked in major industries, compared with 71 percent performed by people. By 2022, however, the report predicts that 42 percent of task hours will be performed by machines and 58 percent by people.
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Previous research offers mixed forecasts on the effects of automation on jobs. It’s unclear whether the new jobs created by innovative combinations of automation and human workers will offset the displacements. But the World Economic Forum report confirms that a key challenge for grappling with the future of work will be equipping staff with new skills and fostering workplace flexibility.
“To prevent an undesirable lose-lose scenario — technological change accompanied by talent shortages, mass unemployment and growing inequality — it is critical that businesses take an active role in supporting their existing workforces through reskilling and upskilling, that individuals take a proactive approach to their own lifelong learning and that governments create an enabling environment, rapidly and creatively, to assist in these efforts,” the report said.
The report’s projections mainly represent roles gained and lost within large multinational corporations. Another analysis that focuses on small and medium-size businesses or certain sectors, such as health care and education, may show greater potential for new jobs, according to the report.
The report said that technological advances in four areas — the spread of high-speed mobile Internet, artificial intelligence, the adoption of big data analytics and cloud computing — are expected to drive business growth for the next four years. These tech developments, according to the report, will arrive in tandem with broader socioeconomic trends, such as the expansion of the middle class in developing countries, national economic growth and new energy policies.
But other social and political trends may hurt business prospects, the report said. Those factors include heightened protectionism, the effects of climate change, cybersecurity threats and increasingly aging societies.
The World Economic Forum compiled the report by surveying 313 business executives who together represent 15 million employees from around the world.