One of the questions I’ve been pondering during my work on the Productive Workplace has been the question of how many job types will still exist in the future with many being wholly or partially automated through computerisation. There’s no point in creating a workplace for an activity that’s been automated after all.
It’s clear that different jobs will be affected in different ways. Some things that humans do today can already be done more effectively by a machine; other things are more of a challenge to the machines.
Carl Frey and Michael Osborne from Oxford University have undertaken a study to try to predict what they impact might be:
(We refer to computerisation as job automation be means of computer-controlled equipment)
In this study they assessed 702 different occupations (in the US) and assigned to them a probability of being computerised. From this they estimated the number of jobs that would be affected by that probability. The headline result was that:
“about 47 percent of total US employment is at risk”.
The probability of computerisation is based on a number of current bottlenecks: perception and manipulation, creative intelligence, social intelligence.
The higher the need for these skills the less likely it is to be automated. We need to be clear here that a bottleneck is simply that, it constrains entry, it doesn’t eliminate it. The other aspect of bottlenecks is that it’s not permanent and will be eroded over time. Technology is moving forward at a rapid pace and areas currently high in bottlenecks will be affected by other areas where bottlenecks are less impacting.
The results of this assessment for the US population are as follows:
This is a massive simplification of the work that they have done, but it’s enough to give clear indications of where the impact is heading.
Jerry Bowles has recently published on bruegel.org a utilisation of this study which assessed its impact in European countries (the original was US). This suggests a different impact for different European countries based on the mix of jobs and their susceptibility to computerisation.
As you can see countries in Northern Europe are less susceptible to those in the South because of the mix of jobs.
From a personal perspective, while my actual role isn’t defined in the appendix of the report similar jobs are, and they appear in the low probability section which would align with what I understand. Although, there is much of my current role that will be heavily affected by computerisation.
If you’d like more information you can, of course, read the study, alternatively you might like to watch this: