COVID-19 Accelerates Workforce Automation, New Jobs Still Coming: WEF

Darnell Taylor
October 22, 2020

According to a World Economic Forum (WEF) study, robots will destroy 85 million jobs as the coronavirus pandemic brings about changes in the workplace worldwide. Comparing the impact of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 on individuals with lower education levels to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the impact today is far more significant and more likely to deepen existing inequalities.

The "Future of Jobs Report 2020" published on Wednesday said that automation, in tandem with the COVID-19 recession, is creating a "double disruption" scenario, where job creation is lagging behind job destruction for the first time in recent years.

Agata Nowakowska, a vice-president at Skillsoft, an educational technology firm, said the WEF report underscores the need for companies to upgrade worker skills.

Jobs set to be increasingly redundant include administrative assistants, bookkeepers and payroll clerks, while positions in growing demand include those in the green economy, roles at the forefront of data and artificial intelligence, as well as new jobs in engineering, cloud computing and product development. However, jobs related to managing, advising, decision-making, reasoning, communicating, and interacting will still be employing humans due to comparative advantage. The report comes even as sectors across the world have been cutting millions of jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic even as employees work from home.

Some 43% of businesses surveyed indicate that they are set to reduce their workforce due to technology integration, 41% plan to expand their use of contractors for task-specialized work, and 34% plan to expand their workforce due to technology integration. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes.

The report, which also analyzed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the US labor market between February and May, found that most displaced workers were on average young, women, and lower-waged employees.

The WEF said the for those workers set to remain in their roles in the next five years, almost 50% will need reskilling for their core skills.

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Despite the current economic downturn, most employers recognise the value of reskilling their workforce. An average of 66% of employers surveyed expect to see a return on investment in upskilling and reskilling of current employees within one year.

"In the future, we will see the most competitive businesses are the ones that have invested heavily in their human capital - the skills and competencies of their employees", Zahidi said.

The World Economic Forum, or WEF, said robotics and machinery will eliminate tens of millions of jobs over the next five years, but create just as many - perhaps more - through the emergence of new technologies.

The public sector needs to provide stronger support for reskilling and upskilling for at-risk or displaced workers.

This suggests that some industries and companies are struggling to adapt quickly enough to the shift to remote working caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"For those workers, there may be some good news in the future because there will be upward wage pressure and much more recognition of the type of work they do", Zahidi said.

Data and artificial intelligence, content creation, and cloud computing are now the top emerging professions.

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