Smart machines 'will displace millions of jobs in next five years'

DAVOS • Disruptive labour market changes, including the rise of robots and artificial intelligence, will result in a net loss of 5.1 million jobs over the next five years in 15 leading countries, according to an analysis published in Davos yesterday.

The projection by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which is holding its annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort this week, assumes a total loss of 7.1 million jobs, offset by a gain of two million new positions.

The 15 economies covered by the survey - namely Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, Britain and the United States, plus the Asean and Gulf Cooperation Council groups - account for about 65 per cent of the world's total workforce.

Two-thirds of the projected losses are expected to fall in the office and administrative sectors as smart machines take over more routine tasks, according to latest findings, which are based on a global survey of personnel and strategy executives.

The WEF has made "the fourth industrial revolution" - a topic covering robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology - the official theme of this year's Davos meeting, which runs from tomorrow to Saturday.

The "Future of Jobs" report concluded that jobs would be displaced in every industry, although the impact would vary considerably, with the biggest negative losses likely to be in healthcare, reflecting the rise of telemedicine, followed by energy and financial services.

Women will be the biggest losers as their jobs are often concentrated in low-growth or declining areas such as sales, office and administrative roles, the report said.

While men will see about one job gained for every three lost over the next five years, women face more than five jobs lost for every one gained.

A separate international survey published yesterday said thatfour out of 10 young people believe machines will be able to do their jobs within a decade. And nearly half of young workers surveyed in Western countries said their education did not prepare them to do their jobs.

The skills gap is especially pronounced in Europe, according to a poll of 9,000 16- to 25-year-olds in nine of the world's biggest nations commissioned by Indian business and software services firm Infosys.

Almost 80 per cent globally said they had to learn new skills not taught to them in school and that rapid technology change - the threat of being overtaken by robots or smart systems - required constant learning of fresh skills to compensate.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2016, with the headline 'Smart machines 'will displace millions of jobs in next five years''. Print Edition | Subscribe