The World Economic Forum recently launched a report concerning the future of jobs.The techological breaktroughs start to create a clear frontier between jobs that can be performed by machines and jobs that can be performed only by humans. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds, companies are seeking to harness new and emerging technologies to reach higher levels of efficiency of production and consumption, expand into new markets, and compete on new products for a global consumer base composed increasingly of digital natives. The World Economic Forum report key findings are the following:
- There are four drivers of change: high-speed mobile internet, artificial intelligence, widespread adoption of big data and cloud technology; these drivers are set to dominate the 2018–2022 period as drivers positively affecting business growth.
- Accelerated technology adoption: By 2022, according to the stated investment intentions of companies surveyed for this report, 85% of respondents are likely or very likely to have expanded their adoption of user and entity big data analytics. Similarly, large proportions of companies are likely or very likely to have expanded their adoption of technologies such as the internet of things and app- and webenabled markets, and to make extensive use of cloud computing. Machine learning and augmented and virtual reality are poised to likewise receive considerable business investment.
- Trends in robotization: While estimated use cases for humanoid robots appear to remain somewhat more limited over the 2018–2022 period under consideration in this report, collectively, a broader range of recent robotics technologies at or near commercialization— including stationary robots, non-humanoid land robots and fully automated aerial drones, in addition to machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence— are attracting significant business interest in adoption. Robot adoption rates diverge significantly across sectors, with 37% to 23% of companies planning this investment, depending on industry. Companies across all sectors are most likely to adopt the use of stationary robots, in contrast to humanoid, aerial or underwater robots, however leaders in the Oil & Gas industry report the same level of demand for stationary and aerial and underwater robots, while employers in the Financial Services industry are most likely to signal the planned adoption of humanoid robots in the period up to 2022.
- Changing geography of production, distribution and value chains: By 2022, 59% of employers surveyed for this report expect that they will have significantly modified how they produce and distribute by changing the composition of their value chain and nearly half expect to have modified their geographical base of operations. When determining job location decisions, companies overwhelmingly prioritize the availability of skilled local talent as their foremost consideration, with 74% of respondents providing this factor as their key consideration. In contrast, 64% of companies cite labour costs as their main concern. A range of additional relevant factors—such as the flexibility of local labour laws, industry agglomeration effects or proximity of raw materials—were considered of lower importance.
- Changing employment types: Nearly 50% of companies expect that automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022, based on the job profiles of their employee base today. However, 38% of businesses surveyed expect to extend their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles, and more than a quarter expect automation to lead to the creation of new roles in their enterprise. In addition, businesses are set to expand their use of contractors doing task-specialized work, with many respondents highlighting their intention to engage workers in a more flexible manner, utilizing remote staffing beyond physical offices and decentralization of operations.
- A new human-machine frontier within existing tasks: Companies expect a significant shift on the frontier between humans and machines when it comes to existing work tasks between 2018 and 2022. In 2018, an average of 71% of total task hours across the 12 industries covered in the report are performed by humans, compared to 29% by machines. By 2022 this average is expected to have shifted to 58% task hours performed by humans and 42% by machines.
- A net positive outlook for jobs: However this finding is tempered by optimistic estimates around emerging tasks and growing jobs which are expected to offset declining jobs. Across all industries, by 2022, growth in emerging professions is set to increase their share of employment from 16% to 27% (11% growth) of the total employee base of company respondents, whereas the employment share of declining roles is set to decrease from currently 31% to 21% (10% decline).