We’ve known for a while that the robots are coming for our jobs. Now a recent study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) sheds some light on how many human jobs run the risk of getting replaced by robots and other automation around the world, and in what industries (hat tip: MIT Technology Review). Spoiler: based on these numbers, the food industry should get set for some major changes.
Overall, the OECD research found that 14 percent of jobs are “highly automatable,” which means that the probability that they will become automatized is more than 70 percent. This translates into more than 66 million workers across the 32 countries covered in the study.
Not every job sector will be impacted the same, and jobs requiring low to basic education will take the brunt of the impact. From the study:
“Automation is found to mainly affect jobs in the manufacturing industry and agriculture, although a number of service sectors, such as postal and courier services, land transport and food services are also found to be highly automatable.”
The study also found that “the risk of automation is the highest among teenage jobs.” Which, if you think back to your teenage years, most likely included a few stints either at a fast food or casual dining restaurant.
The OECD paper adds to the growing debate over exactly how much automation will replace human workers. If there’s good news in this research, it’s that 14 percent automation is far less than the 47 percent predicted by researchers back in 2013. And the OECD paper even couches its own numbers, saying they could change depending on government regulations and the social reaction to automation. It also touches on the fact that automation could create jobs for humans, as well as replace them.
That’s why I’m hesitant to call this OECD study “bad” news. Automation is just… inevitable. As we’ve seen from the likes of Walmart’s shelf-scanning robots, or the cashier-less Amazon Go store, there are some repetitive tasks that machines and computers can do better and more consistently than humans.
The OECD study is, however, another reminder that we need to start thinking of how we will re-shape our workforce — not just fearing how robots will replace it. Until then, perhaps we can take some solace in the fact that Flippy, the burger flipping robot was “retired” (temporarily) after just one day on its job.