Report: Automation could displace 375M workers

Boeing worker and robot
A worker keeps watch on a riveting robot inside the mid-body fuselage of a 777 jet. (Boeing Photo)

The latest robot report has bad news for laborers and office support staff, good news for techies and healthcare workers. India looks bright, while Japan could face the toughest stretch.

Those are just some of the takeaways from McKinsey Global Institute’s data-packed analysis of the effects of automation on employment between now and 2030. The bottom line? Hundreds of millions of workers around the world will be displaced due to the revolutions in robotics and artificial intelligence.

“Displaced” is the key term: Many of those workers will adjust to the new conditions. But it won’t be pretty, McKinsey’s analysts say. As many as 375 million workers, including 38.6 million Americans, may have to switch occupations or learn new skills to hold down a job in 2030.

“Our key finding is that while there may be enough work to maintain full employment to 2030 under most scenarios, the transitions will be very challenging — matching or even exceeding the scale of shifts out of agriculture and manufacturing we have seen in the past,” the analysts write.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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