Just How Many Jobs Are At Risk to Automation In the Coming Decades

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Over the past decade (or three)–and, actually, since the days of Romantic literature—the fear of technology getting out of hand has long been an awareness but maybe never a reality. Well, we are not quite there yet, but maybe in another few decades.

Or, at least, the days of relatively full automation may soon be upon us. According to a new report from consultancy firm PwC, something like 40 percent of US jobs could soon be taken by robots. More importantly, though, it looks like the United States is going to be affected by this more than any other country (where automation is a concern): In the United Kingdom, automation could replace about 30 percent of jobs; in Germany, automation could replace 35 percent of jobs; and in Japan, automation could replace 21 percent of jobs.

It puts things into better perspective when you consider that the United States and the United Kingdom have similar economies, and that the financial services sector in the United States is more vulnerable to this transition than their trans-Atlantic counterparts.

Researchers involved with the PwC report say, “The jobs of these US retail financial workers are assessed by our methodology as being significantly more routine, and so more automatable than the average finance sector job in the UK, with its greater weight on international finance and investment banking.”

The jobs that are most likely to be replace by robotics and automation include those within the transportation and storage sectors (56 percent), manufacturing (46 percent), and retail (44 percent).

As a matter of fact, PwC contends that jobs in the retail and wholesale sector could be drastically at risk. This is an industry which employs 15 percent of the workforce (in the UK). That could mean that nearly half of all retail jobs (in the UK) are at risk; the equivalent of roughly 2.3 million jobs.

Of course, the report also argues that robots in the workplace could improve top salaries.

The researchers go on to say: “Average pre-tax incomes should rise due to the productivity gains, but these benefits may not be evenly spread across income groups.”

Weighing the risks and benefits, of course, will be a major discussion over the next few decades as we continue to move closer and closer to automation.