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Future of work

What impact will technology have over the longer term?

Technology is already displacing large numbers of jobs – both manual positions and more technical occupations. But many believe it will also create demand for ‘human’ skills such as empathy, analytical thinking and creativity.

We will need even greater numbers of new jobs to be created in the future, if we are not to suffer technological unemployment.

Andy Haldane
Former Chief Economist, Bank of England

McKinsey believes 375 million workers (equivalent to 14 per cent of the global workforce) may eventually need to switch occupational categories due to digitisation, automation and AI; but its research also shows that less than 5 per cent of occupations are fully automatable using currently available technology. Those that are include meat packers and ophthalmic lab technicians; those that aren’t include historians, mining roof bolters and the clergy. Harvard economist James Bessen calculates that just one of 270 occupations listed in the 1950 US Census has been eliminated in the 60 years since (elevator operators).

The types of skills that are in demand as technology evolves are themselves not always technical, and include particularly human capabilities such as social and emotional skills, creativity and leadership.

Research from the WEF reveals that half of all employees will need reskilling by 2025 as adoption of technology increases. It estimates that by the middle of the current decade, 85 million jobs may be lost as tasks once completed by humans are done by machines. However, it also believes that more jobs (c 97 million) could emerge that are a better fit for a the new labour balance between humans, machines and algorithms.

Only by changing education can our children compete with machines.

Jack Ma
Alibaba Founder

The World Economic Forum, for example, has identified 10 skillsets for which demand will grow over the next five years as a result of technology.

WEF's top 10 skills of 2025

Analytical thinking and innovation

Active learning and learning strategies

Complex problem-solving

Critical thinking and analysis

Creativity, originality and initiative

Leadership and social influence

Technology use, monitoring and control

Technology design and programming

Resilience, stress-tolerance and flexibility

Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation