Will Robots Take Your Job?

The World Economic Forum last week issued a new report saying that automation—robotics and artificial intelligence—will have a profound affect on just about every business between now and 2022.

Its Future of Jobs Report provides specific information on the relative magnitude of these trends by industry and geography, and on the expected time horizon for their impact to be felt on job functions, employment levels and skills.

“The fundamental pace of change has only accelerated further since the World Economic Forum published its initial report on this new labour market in January 2016,” Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman, WEF wrote in its forward. “With an increased need for tangible evidence and reliable information from the frontlines of this change, this new edition of the Future of Jobs Report once again taps into the collective knowledge of those who are best placed to observe the dynamics of workforces—executives, especially Chief Human Resources Officers, of some of the world’s largest employers—by asking them to reflect on the latest employment, skills and human capital investment trends across industries and geographies.”

Organizations responding to the survey say that they expect to see today’s average of 71% of task hours performed by humans drop to 58% by 2022. That’s a change of 18 percent within four years. And even work tasks that have remained overwhelmingly human—communicating and interacting; coordinating, developing, managing and advising; and reasoning and decision making—will begin to be automated.

Of the companies that responded, within the next four years…

  • Between 25% and 33% plan to invest in robots (primarily stationary ones);
  • 59% plan to significantly modify how they produce & distribute their products;
  • 50% expect to modify their geographical base of operations; and
  • Nearly 50% expect that automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce. However, 38% expect to extend their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles, and 25%-plus expect automation to help create new jobs.

Respondents also say that by 2022, no less than 54% of all employees will require significant re- and up-skilling. Of those, about 35% are expected to require additional training of up to six months.

The number one priority for deciding where to locate new jobs is the availability of skilled labor. Second highest is the cost of that labor.