Half of all work tasks will be handled by machines by 2025 in a shift likely to worsen inequality, a World Economic Forum report has forecast.
The think tank said a “robot revolution” would create 97 million jobs worldwide but destroy almost as many, leaving some communities at risk.
Routine or manual jobs in administration and data processing were most at threat of automation, WEF said.
But it said new jobs would emerge in care, big data and the green economy.
The Forum’s research spanned 300 of the world’s biggest companies, who between them employ eight million people around the world.
More than 50% of employers surveyed said they expected to speed up the automation of some roles in their companies, while 43% felt they were likely to cut jobs due to technology.
WEF said the pandemic had sped up the adoption of new technologies as firms looked to cut costs and adopt new ways of working. But it warned workers now faced a double threat from “accelerating automation and the fallout from the Covid-19 recession”.
“[These things have] deepened existing inequalities across labour markets and reversed gains in employment made since the global financial crisis in 2007-2008,” said Saadia Zahidi, managing director at WEF.
“It’s a double disruption scenario that presents another hurdle for workers in this difficult time. The window of opportunity for proactive management of this change is closing fast.”
‘Surge in demand’
WEF said currently around a third of all work tasks were handled by machines, with humans doing the rest, but by 2025 the balance would shift.
Roles that relied on human skills such as advising, decision-making, reasoning, communicating and interacting would rise in demand. There would also be a “surge” in demand for workers to fill green economy jobs, and new roles in areas like engineering and cloud computing.
But it said millions of routine or manual jobs would be displaced by technology, affecting the lowest paid, lowest skilled workers the most.
It said millions would need to be re-skilled to cope with the change, while governments would have to provide “stronger safety nets” for displaced workers.