WEF: How emerging tech will both eliminate and create jobs

The 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' is happening now and it's creating 'a perfect storm of business model change,' says the WEF.

How technology will eliminate and create jobs

Factors are merging right now that will create one of the biggest business changes in history. And it's all going to happen in the next five years, says a new World Economic Forum (WEF) study.

"A perfect storm of business model change in all industries, resulting in major disruptions to labor markets," will occur WEF says in a summary of its report on the future of jobs. The World Economic Forum is best known for its annual hob-nob schmooze in alpine Davos, Switzerland, where it brainstorms global issues.

The forum says that numerous new types of jobs will appear, "partly or wholly displacing others."

Emerging technologies

"Drivers of change" will transform labor markets, the report thinks.

Specifically, between 2015 and 2017, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, and new energy technologies will be among the "drivers of change" to impact industries and business models.

Between 2018 and 2020, advanced robotics, autonomous transport, artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced material, biotechnology, and DNA tech called genomics will be among the new technologies that kick in during the period and affect industries.

Add all this to the impact already underway of newish technology, such as mobile Internet, the cloud, Big Data, crowdsourcing, peer-to-peer, and the sharing economy, and you've got massive change on your hands, the organization thinks.

And 2020 is only four years away.

Where jobs will be cut

The WEF predicts that about 7 million jobs will be lost in 15 economic areas from 2015 to 2020, based on surveys of executives in "15 major developed and emerging economies and regional economic areas" across nine industry sectors.

Most jobs to go will be white-collar office and administration-related, followed by blue-collar jobs in manufacturing and production.

But other sectors look vulnerable too, including construction and extraction, the arts, legal, and installation and maintenance.

Where jobs will be created

It's not all doom and gloom, however.

Gains will be made in business and financial operations, management, and computer and mathematical roles, among others. These kinds of areas stand to gain 2 million jobs, the study predicts.

Data analysis is a sure bet for job gains, WEF reckons, as is specialized sales staffing. The reason: Corporate offerings will be so innovative that they will need elaborate explaining, in part.

A new kind of senior manager will be needed too, across varied sectors. That person "will successfully steer companies through the upcoming change and disruption," the report says.

Other winners include architecture and engineering, and education and training.


It's the Fourth Industrial Revolution that will do it, WEF says.

That's the somewhat vague physical, digital, and biological revolution building on Revolution Three, which was plain digital. Revolution Two was electrical and Revolution One was steam.

Skills that will be in demand

"By 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today," the study goes on to say.

Robotics and machine learning, for example, will let employees work on new things. And social skills will become more important than "programming or equipment operation and control."

In other words, WEF thinks that although jobs will be lost via automation and technology, new ones will not only be created, but existing ones have an opportunity to adapt. Jobs will be around, they'll just be different.

That correlates with a McKinsey report I wrote about in November that suggested that automation wouldn't necessarily make jobs irrelevant, it would just create more hours for workers to do other things — such as be creative and sensitive.

Talent revolution

WEF says a "talent revolution" needs to take place. Education is crucial. "Governments and businesses will need to change their approach" to that, it says.

And, indeed, children will need to be taught "so they will be able to compete with robots," the Independent newspaper wrote in its coverage of WEF's report.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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