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AI not a ‘job killer’?

Written by Mark Evans
03/04/2018

AI is going to threaten existing jobs – the question is to what degree. Some estimates have been placing the figure at near half, but the OECD has published a paper that places the number far lower.

Automation, Skills Use and Training by Ljubica Nedelkoska and Glenda Quintini estimates that almost one in two jobs are likely to be significantly affected by automation, with 14 per cent of jobs in OECD countries having a probability of automation of over 70 per cent.

This is till equivalent to over 66 million workers in the 32 countries covered by the study, and there is considerable variance across countries with 33 per cent of all jobs in Slovakia highly automatable, while, at the other extreme, only 6 per cent in Norway. Jobs in Anglo-Saxon, Nordic countries and the Netherlands are generally less automatable than jobs in Eastern European countries, South European countries, Germany, Chile and Japan.

The variation between countries is largely a product of the concentration of workers in different economic sectors, for example using data for Germany and the UK tasks such as analytical and social skills have become more common within occupations but occupations that already performed those tasks intensively have also grown in number. On the other hand, in these two countries, the decline in tasks involving physical strength has primarily happened through the reduction in the number of occupations that were intensive in those tasks.

Worryingly for governments, one finding is that the risk of automation is the highest among teenage jobs, so automation is much more likely to result in youth unemployment than in early retirements. Moreover adult learning is seen as a crucial policy instrument for the re-training and up-skilling of workers whose jobs are being affected by technology.