Work in an Age of Automation
By Eric Hazan, Susan Lund  |  Jun 30, 2021
Work in an Age of Automation
Image courtesy of and under license from Shutterstock.com
Demand for digitally savvy workers has been rising quietly over the past decade or more, but that shift is now gathering pace and is transforming the entire labor market, not just the tech sector. Much more needs to be done to ensure that companies and workers thrive in this new era of automation and AI. Only with an appropriately trained and adaptable workforce will economies be able to secure the full productivity-enhancing benefits of evolving technologies.

PARIS - From truck drivers using GPS systems to nurses recording patients’ vital signs to train conductors checking tickets with hand-held devices, everybody nowadays needs some basic digital skills. Demand for digitally savvy workers has been rising quietly over the past decade or more, but that shift is now gathering pace and it is transforming the entire labor market, not just the tech sector.

In a recent report, the McKinsey Global Institute compares the number of hours workers currently spend using 25 core skills in five categories - physical and manual, basic cognitive, higher cognitive, social, and emotional, and technological - to the number of hours they will spend on those skills in 2030. Unsurprisingly, given the wider use of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), a 55 percent jump in demand is expected for all types of technological skills, from basic digital knowledge to advanced skills like programming.

Demand for social and emotional skills that machines lack - such as the ability to work in teams, to lead others, to negotiate, and to empathize - will also rise sharply. The number of jobs requiring such skills - in sectors like healthcare, education, sales and marketing, and management - will increase by 24 percent.

Demand for some higher cognitive skills, especially creativity and complex problem-solving, will also rise. Yet machines are already making inroads into some areas that require higher cognitive skills, such as advanced literacy and writing, and quantitative and statistical capabilities. This highlights the potential for automation and AI to displace even white-collar office worke

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