Workforce automating faster than expected; automation, digitisation in India above global avg: Study

The COVID-19 pandemic is making companies automate their workforce faster than expected globally, while firms with operations in India are accelerating their automation and digitisation above the global average, a World Economic Forum study showed on Wednesday.

The year-long study on effects of automation in the workplace and the outlook for robot revolution found that the 'future of work' has arrived early due to COVID-19 and may lead to 85 million jobs getting displaced in the next five years in medium and large businesses across just 15 industries and 26 economies.

At the same time, the robot revolution will create 97 million new jobs, but communities most at risk from disruption will need support from businesses and governments, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said.

These new jobs would mostly emerge in the care economy, in fourth industrial revolution technology industries like artificial intelligence, and in content creation fields.

"Businesses with operations in India are accelerating automation and digitisation above the global average. While 58 per cent are accelerating automation of tasks, compared to 50 per cent globally, as many as 87 per cent are accelerating digitalisation of work processes, above the global average of 84 per cent," the study showed.

By 2025, employers will divide work between humans and machines equally. Roles that leverage human skills will rise in demand. Machines will be primarily focused on information and data processing, administrative tasks and routine manual jobs for white and blue-collar positions.

The tasks where humans are set to retain their comparative advantage include managing, advising, decision-making, reasoning, communicating and interacting.

There will be a surge in demand for workers who can fill green-economy jobs, roles at the forefront of the data and artificial intelligence economy, as well as new roles in engineering, cloud computing and product development.

But for those workers set to remain in their roles in the next five years, nearly 50 per cent will need reskilling for their core skills.

The report incorporated data from the top hiring and strategy managers at the world's biggest companies, as also from the study's partners LinkedIn, Coursera, FutureFit AI and ADP.

It used projections of senior business leaders representing nearly 300 global companies, which collectively employ 8 million workers.

According to the study, analytical thinking, creativity and flexibility are among the top skills needed over the next five years, while data and artificial intelligence, content creation and cloud computing are the top emerging professions.

The most competitive businesses will be those that choose to reskill and upskill current employees, as per the 'Future of Jobs' study.

By 2025, automation and a new division of labour between humans and machines will disrupt 85 million jobs globally in medium and large businesses across 15 industries and 26 economies. Roles in areas such as data entry, accounting and administrative support are decreasing in demand as automation and digitization in the workplace increase.

More than 80 per cent of business executives are accelerating plans to digitize work processes and deploy new technologies, while 50 per cent of employers are expecting to accelerate the automation of some roles in their companies, as per the survey.

In contrast to previous years, job creation is now slowing while job destruction is accelerating, it said.

"COVID-19 has accelerated the arrival of the future of work. Accelerating automation and the fallout from the COVID-19 recession has deepened existing inequalities across labour markets and reversed gains in employment made since the global financial crisis in 2007-2008, WEF Managing Director Saadia Zahidi said.

It is a double-disruption scenario that presents another hurdle for workers in this difficult time and the window of opportunity for proactive management of this change is closing fast, she said.

"Businesses, governments and workers must plan to urgently work together to implement a new vision for the global workforce," Zahidi noted.

Nearly 43 per cent of businesses surveyed indicate that they are set to reduce their workforce due to technology integration, 41 per cent plan to expand their use of contractors for task-specialized work, and 34 per cent plan to expand their workforce due to technology integration.

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Free Press Journal