A Closer Look

Future of Work – Between 75 million and 375 million people around the world may need to change occupation and acquire new skills by 2030

Our starting point is the new MGI report on the future of work, which is called Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation. One of the major findings of the report is that between 75 million and 375 million people around the world may need to change occupational categories and acquire new skills by the year 2030. Let’s start off by discussing that in some detail. First, perhaps Michael, you’d like to start. How did we arrive at these numbers?

Michael Chui: This is built on previous work that we did on the potential effects of automation. These are technologies including artificial intelligence [AI] and physical robotics. What we tried to do is to understand which activities in the global workforce potentially could be automated. We looked at not only every occupation in the global workforce but also all of their constituent activities, about 2,000 of them, and tried to understand the pace at which those could potentially be automated by adapting technologies that exist today and technologies that might be developed in the future.

We modeled those activities that might be automated out to the year 2030 and considered those that the machines might take over for things that people do.

We also tried to understand what the impact might be of other catalysts—for additional demand for human labor. We looked at seven different catalysts that could significantly increase the demand for human labor even net of those activities that might be automated. They include the following:

  • Rising incomes or rising prosperity around the world. We’ll have another one billion people entering the consuming class during the next couple of decades.
    Aging around the world. This drives the need for additional labor in healthcare, for instance.
  • The need to develop and deploy technologies. Digitization, automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence—these actually require people.
    Investment in infrastructure, such as real estate, buildings, and bridges. All that construction could drive the additional need for human demand, even though our own MGI productivity research says more and more of that could potentially be automated.
  • Changes in the energy mix. We’ll have smart grids. We’ll need to change the generation of energy.
  • Decreasing amounts of unpaid labor in the global workforce. This is, in many cases, domestic work that’s often done by women, whether it’s childcare, cleaning, cooking, et cetera. More and more of that could enter the market as well.

We look at the net of that—all of the potential jobs lost, those things that machines might take over, and the potential jobs gained—and the additional demand for human labor that can come from these seven catalysts.Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at How will automation affect jobs, skills, and wages? | McKinsey & Company

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