robots job automation

Covid-19 speeding shift to automation in the workplace, report finds

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is speeding up the pace of automation in the workplace, painting a mixed picture for future jobs, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has said.

In its Future of Jobs Report 2020, the WEF found that 43 per cent of businesses surveyed said they would reduce their workforce due to technology integration.

Although the number of jobs eliminated is expected to be surpassed by the number of future-facing jobs created, overall job creation is slowing while job destruction accelerates.

Companies around the world are increasingly using technology rather than people for data entry, accounting and administration duties, the report found.

Employers expect that by 2025, increasingly redundant roles will decline from being 15.4 per cent of the workforce to 9 per cent and that emerging professions will grow from 7.8 per cent to 13.5 per cent.

Based on these figures, the WEF estimates that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines, while 97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms.

The adoption of cloud computing, big data and e-commerce remain high priorities for business leaders, following a trend established in previous years. However, there has also been a significant rise in interest for encryption, non-humanoid robots and artificial intelligence.

The increased focus on encryption follows reports earlier this year that cyber criminals are ramping up their activities in response to the broad shift to home working following lockdowns.

The expectation that employees will reskill on the job in order to keep up with the shifting workforce is also rising, with 94 per cent of business leaders reporting that they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job, a sharp uptake from 65 per cent in 2018.

84 per cent of employers are set to rapidly digitalise working processes, including a significant expansion of remote work, with the potential to move an average of 44 per cent of their workforce to operate remotely.

To address concerns about productivity and well-being, about one-third of all employers expect to also take steps to create a sense of community, connection and belonging among employees through digital tools, and to tackle the wellbeing challenges posed by the shift to remote work.

The WEF also warns that in the absence of proactive efforts, inequality is likely to be exacerbated by the dual impact of technology and the pandemic recession.

Jobs held by lower wage workers, women and younger workers were more deeply impacted in the first phase of the economic contraction.

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