Can a robot really threaten your job?

by borne . January 19, 2016

Yesterday the World Economic Forum (WEF) published its annual Future of Jobs report with technology and robotics being a hot point of discussion. With rapid technology increases including in robotics could we really see up to 7 million job losses by 2020?

The report, which calls this latest spate of technological advancements the “fourth industrial revolution” suggests that white collar and administrative positions will see the greatest losses with women set to lose out more than men as they are less likely to be employed in growth fields such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) professions.

The WEF will meet this week in Davos to discuss the report and its conclusions/assumptions and while we are clearly far from living The Jetsons’ life there will be plenty of food for thought surrounding how technology is impacting our lives and our jobs.

 

Automation – the industry game changer

 

Imagine the scenario; you own a plot of land and you and your family have been tilling fields for generations. In planting season at come harvest time you even take on extra labourers to cover the extra work load. One day a traveling salesman knocks on your door with something called a ‘plough’ in tow which promises to cut down your work load, increase productivity and even allow you to take on new crops and save you money in the process. His sales talk is smooth but it all sounds far-fetched until he proves it. Hey presto! You are part of the Industrial Revolution and the way you work will never be the same again.

So that may be glossing over many of the finer and nuanced details but in a nutshell that’s how technology can change the working world. And it is happening again.

Applications, software that can help businesses with their processing such as orders and accounting, 3D Printing and rapid prototyping technology that speeds up businesses’ production schedules. These are all becoming realities of the working world and many people through no fault of their own may well end up being left behind by the times. The report highlights some industries and positions such as administration as those likely to feel the impact of technological advancements and automation.

It is not all doom and gloom however and the report largely paints a picture of the shifting landscape of work in the developed world. The former CEO of Barclays, Anthony Jenkins last year spoke of a nearing ‘Uber Moment’ in the banking industry (referring to the crisis affecting the taxi cab industry due to Uber and apps and services like it). However he also pointed to there being a need for more a more customer focused approach to the business. In other words, if one door closes, another one opens and with technological advancements there will be no shortage of opportunity to be involved in a number of these new and emerging industries.

 

Education, Education, Education

 

According to the WEF report it is thought that around 65% of children going to Primary School today will end up in jobs that do not yet exist. This really is an astonishing figure and we need only look back 20 years or so to the 1990s to see how this may well be accurate. The industry boom is exciting and, while the WEF has been set up to discuss the impact of technology and how governments and societies in general can deal with it the fact remains that there are new opportunities and new avenues to explore for people that there have never been before.

The Future of Jobs report highlights how rapidly scenarios can shift and twist. It is likely true that some industries and therefore some people may be left behind but by remaining as fluid as possible, by learning new skills or by becoming involved in new industries people can remain ahead of or at least at the cusp of the curve.

Meet George Jetson? He might already be here.