The number of jobs lost to automation will reach 12 million across Europe alone by 2040, according to Forrester.
The research house said workers in the accommodation, food services, leisure and hospitality, retail, transport and wholesale sectors would be most affected across France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK.
The losses would be offset by nine million new jobs in “green energy and automation… specifically in clean energy, clean buildings, and smart cities” it said in its European Future of Jobs Forecast 2020-2040, published January 18, which also points to Europe’s huge demographic pressures amid rapidly aging populations.
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“Lost productivity due to COVID-19 is forcing companies globally to automate manual processes and improve remote work,” said Michael O’Grady, principal forecast analyst at Forrester.
“The pandemic is just one factor that will shape the future of work in Europe over the next two decades, however”, he noted in the report. “European organisations are also in a particularly strong position to embrace automation because of Europe’s declining working-age population and the high number of routine low-skilled jobs that can be easily automated. Automation will subsequently become integral to how European governments and employers look at their competitiveness and manage their older demographic.”
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The report comes after the OECD in a January 2021 report (which in turn found that 14% of all jobs were at high risk of automation) noted that “employment has grown in nearly all occupations since 2012, even in some with a higher risk of automation.
“On average, across occupations, employment grew by 12%” the report found, adding that the “highest growth was observed for information and communications technology professionals (51.3%)…”
Economists from Keynes onwards have argued that while automation results in job losses, it also contributes to employment growth through increases in productivity that in turn, cause lower prices on goods and services, boosting demand, which in turn increases employment levels.
Many industrial leaders have been among those flagging concerns that policy makers are not responding fast enough however to the extent to which automation is going to affect the social fabric, including via radically rethought training infrastructure.
Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser is one example, arguing in 2018 at the WEF that “If we get the [fourth industrial] revolution right, digitalization will benefit the nearly 10 billion humans inhabiting our planet in the year 2050” and adding starkly that “if we get it wrong, societies will be divided into winners and losers, social unrest and anarchy will arise, the glue that holds societies and communities together will disintegrate, and citizens will no longer believe that governments are able to fulfill their purpose of enforcing the rule of law and providing security.”
He added at the time: “As leaders we must summon the courage to address the tough questions. And there are plenty of them. How can we secure the future of those whose jobs will be eliminated by machines? Do we need a guaranteed basic income? Should we impose taxes on software and robots? … If so, how can they be enforced?”
Routine jobs “make up 38% of the workforce in Germany, 34% of the workforce in France, and 31% of the workforce in the UK; 49 million jobs in Europe-5 are at risk from automation” Forrester said in its report today.
“As a result, European organisations will invest in low-carbon jobs and build employees’ skill sets” it added, in an upbeat bit of editorialising.
“Soft skills such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility — something robots aren’t known for — will complement worker automation tasks and become more desirable.”