What sectors will likely benefit?
That emerging pink- and green-collar economy will likely favor sectors such as technology, medical technology and industrials, Israel notes. Other likely beneficiaries include e-commerce, communication services, financial services and utilities. “We also see opportunities in education and for those who ‘upskill’ or retrain workers,” he says. Industries that may struggle as more people work remotely include commercial real estate and traditional transportation companies.
How will today’s workers adapt to these changes?
According to one study, up to 100 million workers in eight countries (including the United States) may need to switch occupations by 2030.5 Technology skills should experience higher demand than data input and processing skills or physical and manual labor. Some occupations, meanwhile, appear to be relatively automation-proof. Teachers, for example, have just a 27% chance of being replaced by machines.6
At the same time, humans will likely enjoy a new level of flexibility in the work they do and how they structure their days as a result of automation. The projected changes are a continuation of the impact automation has had on workers’ lives throughout history. For example, in the 19th century, workers put in the equivalent of 60 to 70 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, notes Tran. Today’s workers log roughly half that time as new technology has increased productivity and freed many to work where and when they want. “Already, the 9-to-5 routine is starting to look dated,” he says. Today, an estimated 20% to 30% of the working age population in the United States and Europe is engaged in independent, or “gig,” work. While job insecurity and lack of worker rights can make a gig life precarious, many like the ability that gig work gives them to control their own schedules.
What are the greatest challenges ahead?
Despite the larger number of jobs automation will create, its disruptions present some serious risks, Israel notes. “Twentieth-century education practices have not kept up with the rapidly changing 21st century workplace,” Israel says.
Preparing workers and avoiding widespread unemployment will require a concerted mix of lifelong learning, corporate training and development, vocational education and massive open online courses (MOOCs), he notes. Governments will need to play a pivotal role in education and training, ongoing stimulus and support for individuals and families, especially in vulnerable communities, Israel adds.
Success could mean not just a more prosperous world in which to work, but one with a greater opportunity to relax. Says Tran, “if automation helps free workers from mundane and repetitive tasks, the future of work might tilt towards more leisure time.”