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AI and Automation Risk to Jobs Overstated

Dominique Adams


Automation Risk

New report claims that previous forecasts exaggerated the number of jobs at high risk of becoming automated.

A 2013 forecast by Oxford University predicted that roughly 35% of jobs in the UK were at high risk of being automated in the next 20 years. However a new report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates this figure to be far lower at only 12%.

This new analysis improves previous estimates of the risk of automation by using a more disaggregated occupational classification. It identifies that not all jobs with the same name are at equal risk to automation.

Factors Diminishing Automation Risk

The OECD listed a variety of factors that made some similarly-title jobs less susceptible to automation, depending on whether:

  • Computers and other human labour-replacing equipment have already been adopted
  • The role involves having to deal with complex social relationships, including caring for others and recognising cultural sensitivities
  • The post requires lots of creativity and complex reasoning
  • The job requires lots of physical manipulation of objects in a constantly changing work environment

Entry Level Jobs at High Risk

Although worker outlook may be less bleak than previously thought, workers will still face their daily tasks changing significantly in the future. The report also highlights the likelihood that young people will struggle to find work at entry level as these roles had a higher risk of automation than jobs requiring more experience. This in turn will make it harder for them to gain the necessary experience needed to get their foot on the career ladder.

However, the study found no measurable evidence to show that AI was impacting jobs requiring high levels of education and skill, despite previous claims. It is the lower skilled jobs that involve repetitive routine tasks such as cleaners, food preparers and agricultural labourers that are most vulnerable to automation. Jobs done by teenagers are among the highest at risk of being negatively impacted.

While this report is somewhat heartening it should be treated with caution as they fail to take into consideration the rapid rate at which AI systems are improving and developing. It is impossible to predict how sophisticated AI and automation will be within the next 30 years and therefore it is hard to know precisely how much it will impact the future job market.

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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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