While automation will inevitably become more common in the workplace, a new report estimates only about five per cent of jobs are in jeopardy of a total takeover.
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Overall, automation will benefit businesses and economies as a whole, write the authors of the report from the McKinsey Global Institute, the business and economic research arm of global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
The simple truth is, machines can do some jobs better than humans.
“Automation of activities can enable businesses to improve performance, by reducing errors and improving quality and speed, and in some cases achieving outcomes that go beyond human capabilities,” the report notes.
While many roles can’t be totally replaced by robots, more than half of jobs (60 per cent) could be partially automated. Workers should expect to see more automation in the workplace over time, and be ready to adapt.
The jobs most easily replaced by robots are physical and predictable:
- Accommodation and food services (73 per cent automation percentage)
- Manufacturing (60 per cent automation percentage)
- Agriculture (58 per cent automation percentage)
- Transportation and warehousing (57 per cent automation percentage)
- Retail (53 per cent automation percentage)
The report says low-wage workers are most likely to be replaced by automation over time.
“On average, occupations with higher wages and skill requirements have lower automation potential, reflecting some skill bias,” the report notes.
The jobs least likely to be replaced by a robot:
- Educational service
- Healthcare and social assistance
And what do these jobs have in common? They require decision making in an unpredictable environment, managing and developing people, planning and creative tasks.
So what are workers to do? For starters, be aware of what tasks will be swallowed up by automation while choosing new careers or training.
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But if you want to keep a job, the report says, you should look to boost the skills that machines can’t easily replicate.
“Automation will create an opportunity for those in work to make use of the innate human skills that machines have the hardest time replicating: logical thinking and problem solving, social and emotional capabilities, providing expertise, coaching and developing others, and creativity,” the report states.
“As machines take on ever more of the predictable activities of the workday, these skills will be at a premium.”
You can read the full report, A future that works: Automation, employment and productivity, here.