Women holding a computer with a robot in the background

A third of US working hours could be automated by 2030, report finds

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At least 12 million US workers will need to change jobs as a result of increased automation – with women being the most affected – according to a McKinsey & Company report.

Women are 50 per cent more likely to change jobs by the end of the decade, the study found after analysing the impact of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) tools on the US workforce. 

The report, published by the McKinsey Global Institute, found that around a third of the country’s working hours could be automated by 2030. The shift is expected to mostly affect people in low-wage positions and workers in food services, customer services and sales, of which women make up a majority. 

Black and Hispanic workers, workers without college degrees, and the youngest and oldest workers also are more likely to have to find new jobs by 2030, the study says.

“Workers in lower-wage jobs are up to 14 times more likely to need to change occupations than those in highest-wage positions, and most will need additional skills to do so successfully,” McKinsey said. “Women are heavily represented in office support and customer service, which could shrink by about 3.7 million and 2.0 million jobs, respectively, by 2030.”

The company stressed that most of these workers “will need additional skills” to transition to higher-paid jobs successfully. 

In contrast, workers in areas including management, healthcare and the legal profession are least likely to be impacted, the company found. AI is also expected to change the way people work by removing repetitive or manual tasks, particularly in sectors such as law and civil engineers. 

Lawyers are among the high-paid workers who will see “the biggest impact of generative AI” since models “can search through case law … freeing lawyers to think through how to apply them in new legal arguments”, the company found.

Meanwhile, generative AI will support engineers because it is expected to “accelerate the design process, taking all building codes into account for fewer errors and less rework”. In contrast, high-paying physical work could grow by as much as 3.8 million jobs by the end of the decade. 

“We see generative AI enhancing the way STEM, creative, and business and legal professionals work rather than eliminating a significant number of jobs outright,” the authors wrote.

The report also highlighted a transition towards the green economy, which will boost demand for professionals in sectors such as renewable technologies. Positions in green industries could see “a modest gain in employment” to the tune of 700,000 additional jobs.

Overall, the total number of transitions through 2030 could be 25 per cent higher than what the company itself projected a little over two years ago.

In March, Goldman Sachs economists found that many as 300 million full-time jobs around the world could be partially or wholly replaced by AI tools.  

In the UK, BT has already announced it plans to digitalise its processes going forward, with around 10,000 jobs in customer services being replaced by technologies including AI tools.

Over the past few months, a growing list of tech firms have collectively shed more than 100,000 jobs as companies react to unexpected financial challenges and contractions in the global economy in the post-pandemic world, as the cost-of-living crisis bites.

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