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  • Writer's pictureTimothy Laku

Three Ways Disruptive Technology Will Impact the Future of Work

Everyone wants to know whether we are facing a future with less jobs or more jobs. Technology has not only disrupted business models but is also already disrupting different occupations.

The Future of Work: Threat or Blessing in Disguise for Workers? Source: Nordic Business Forum

The idea of a single education, followed by a single career, finishing with a single pension is over.

The Future of Work is filled with exciting new opportunities, disruptive change, and risks. Here are the three ways disruptive technology will impact the future of work

Source: World Economic Forum 2018 Future of Jobs Report

According to the World Economic Forum 2018 Future of Jobs Report, 133 million new jobs will be created by 2022. These will be in emerging specialist roles in Big Data, AI, Machine Learning, Software, Apps, and IT Services.

Technology has created and will continue to create exciting new opportunities when it comes to work. A research done at MIT shows that since 1980 about 50% of job growth came from brand new job titles. We can think of a lot of jobs today that didn’t exist 10 years ago - Mobile App Developer, Zumba Instructor, Social Media Intern, UI/UX Designer, Cloud Services Specialist, and Digital Marketing Specialist.

Demand for Data Analyst is growing. When we think about AI and what it’s able to accomplish today, then we start to see brand new opportunities in the future for work that we can’t even conceive of today.

These new opportunities in the future will typically require a great deal of new skills, education, and adaptability.

Human tribes or robot colleagues? What will the future of work look like? Source: HR Magazine

Technology has not only disrupted business models but is also already disrupting different occupations. From transportation (with Uber), to retail (with Amazon), to medicine, to construction. There are very few career fields that won’t be touched in some way by technological change.

For some workers, what this means is more work with emerging technology. Imagine a Radiologist who’s going to have to learn to work with robots and that is going to have to be part and parcel of what they do at work.

For other workers, technology will mean more work with people – when all the routine work has been handed over to automation, the people component of the job will still be done by other people.

There was a time when the ATM machine was thought as the replacement to bank teller jobs. What happened was that bank teller jobs changed because of the introduction of the ATM machines. Before the ATM machines, the teller jobs involved a lot of routine work, processing cheques, and dealing with cash. This role evolved to a much higher value-added customer service-oriented position.

For some workers, their jobs are going to pivot to a higher-skilled and a more people-facing role.

For a lot of workers, technology is going to take some of the chore out of work and make them even more productive in very exciting ways. Taken together though, change for many workers will be over whelming.

Looking out into the future, the idea that you will have a fixed skill set or a fixed occupation or even a stable career, that idea is more and more going to be a thing of the past. The half-life of our skills is shortening. People will be expected to constantly up-skill, relearn, and switch jobs.

"Automation may pose a threat to jobs, but it also puts an added psychological pressure on staff who have to keep pace with the robots." Source: Raconteur

There is this worry about what is going to happen in terms of displacement of jobs. This is certainly not the first time that technology might have a negative impact on specific occupations. Manufacturing tells a story that we will see across lots of occupations in the years to come.

Since 2000 there are five million fewer manufacturing jobs and the bulk of those job losses are in routine lower skilled positions. Over the same period, there has been an increase in the manufacturing jobs that require higher education. The sort of tasks that involved more routine welding and assembly of machinery – those tasks that don’t require advanced education – jobs in these areas have gone away as these tasks have been handed over to automation.

The biggest trend in terms of who is going to be most negatively impacted by technology – automation and AI – is lower skilled workers such as fast food servers, cashiers, retails sales people etc These are low skilled jobs that don’t require any preparation in advance. These jobs are at the highest risk of automation.

Another cluster at risk are jobs that are older and primarily done by women working in back office functions such as HR, Payroll, Administrative Assistants, and those doing clerical work - these are at a very high risk of automation. These are primarily female positions and older workers.

From that perspective, the real risks in terms of displacements is highly correlated to low-wage low-skilled and low-education and routine work. This posses a huge challenge because for most occupations that are similar, say for a young person with a high school education, a lot of the jobs that they would apply for are at risk of automation.

The big question then becomes what or who is going to fill those roles and how to up-skill those workers to be eligible for some of the exciting opportunities.

Everyone wants to know whether we are facing a future with less jobs or more jobs. It’s hard to predict the answer. How much the job creation will be offset by the job losses is everyone’s guess. We are not prepared for most of the questions around job redistribution and risks associated with these disruptive changes.

There is no city today or country or government that has policies or the programs in place to help workers adjust to these changes and make sure that they are prepared for that opportunity. It's about time that we engage all stakeholders in this conversation if we are to proactively address the risks and better manage the change that is soon going to impact the workforce.



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