Technological advancements have revolutionized workplaces across the world, playing a major role in changing the way people do their jobs. In recent years, it has brought about several disruptions in business models creating a profound impact on the employment landscape across global industries.
While automation enabled-technologies like robotics and AI have scaled up productivity, efficiencies and convenience, they have also impacted jobs, skills and the overall nature of work, so much so that a PwC report suggests that about 30% of jobs face the potential risk of getting replaced due to automation in the next 20 years.
An Oxford Economics report also echoes similar findings, citing that the rise of automation is projected to displace as many as 20 million manufacturing jobs by 2030, with about 8.5% of the global manufacturing workforce expected to be replaced by robots, and 14 million manufacturing jobs lost in China alone. Furthermore, , the US may also lose more than 1.5 million jobs to automation, while the European Union will lose close to 2 million jobs and South Korea will lose nearly 800,000. Other countries are expected to lose 3 million jobs to robots by 2030.
Effects of disruptions on global jobs
Meanwhile, in 2019, job cuts were the highest in four years in the US with employers announcing plans to eliminate 592,556 jobs, a 10% rise from 2018 levels. These numbers were released by the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Apart from other reasons, emerging technologies was one of the primary reasons behind the job cuts.
In 2020, as the world was trying to adapt to all these vagaries, there came a sudden massive jolt in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic that further impacted the job market like never before. A couple of months into the pandemic, the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) predicted that 1.6 billion informal economy workers could suffer damage to their livelihoods.
In short, the job market has changed immensely in the last few decades – in the pre-COVID as well as COVID era – and is likely to change a lot more. These disruptive changes may grow even bigger considering the market for technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) is growing at 20 percent per year and is likely to reach US$5 billion by 2024.
But does that mean automation is bringing only job losses? Well, not by a long shot!
As organizations around the globe integrate automation and technology into their operations, there are likely to be significant impacts on jobs, but not all of them are negative. Automation and new technology are changing the nature of jobs, but they are also creating new ones that did not exist before.
Technology-led global job market
According to an estimate by the World Economic Forum, by 2022, more than 75 million jobs may be lost as companies shift to more automation. However, the same report also adds that 133 million new jobs will emerge during the period, as businesses create a new division of labor between people and machines.
Innovation is actually generating jobs faster than automation and technology are obliterating them. Completely new industries have emerged in recent years, creating jobs that did not exist 10 years ago. Technology has disrupted industries in so many ways, creating countless investments and job opportunities for people.
In fact, organizations and employees too are making the most of automation to revamp their nature of work. As per the 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 41 percent of respondents had said they were using automation extensively or across multiple functions in the workplace. While 62 percent of respondents were using automation to eliminate transactional work and replace repetitive tasks, 47 percent were augmenting existing work practices to improve productivity, and 36 percent were “reimagining work.”
The good news is that as machines replace humans in managing routine work, more jobs are evolving that accommodate new combinations of human skills and capabilities. Organizations are rapidly scaling up investments in reskilling their workforce because they are feeling a need to redesign jobs—along with business and work processes—to keep pace with the technological advancement. As many as 84 per cent respondents to the Global Human Capital Trends survey had said that automation would require reskilling which is why they are increasing funding for reskilling and retraining.
Rise of the gig economy
Technological advancement has also meant that concepts like ‘gig economy’ and ‘extended enterprise’ have found an increasing demand. With the progress in technology, more and more people are opting for flexible, freelance jobs and the last decade has seen a surge in the number of gig workers. Many are choosing to offer their services on digital platforms like Upwork, Uber and Etsy.
Likewise, businesses too are turning to independent workers with greater regularity. The share of gig workers in businesses across US has risen by 15% since 2010, according to the ADP Research Institute. The concept of extended enterprise -- learning/training that is targeted towards an organization’s non-employees or ‘external audience’ – has also picked up in the recent past.
All in all, this is the time when the job sector is experiencing winds of change. In an era that has seen swift advances in automation and artificial intelligence, there is promise as well as challenge for the workforce. A Mckinsey research titled Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation sums up the scenario in the best manner. It says that by 2030, when between 400 million and 800 million individuals could be displaced by automation, organizations will have to re-evaluate their strategies in a world where the role and meaning of work is experiencing a paradigm shift.
Fortunately, organizations have already realized that it is in their best interests to prepare their workers for the future world of work and are putting their best foot forward.