Report dials down the risk to jobs from automation

Fulfillment center
An automated guided vehicle trundles packages inside an Amazon fulfillment center in Dupont, Wash. Automation is expected to affect a wide range of occupations. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

working paper written for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that about 14 percent of the jobs in 32 OECD countries, including the U.S., are at high risk of being automated.

That raw figure may not sound as dire as some of the previous numbers cited for the effect of automation and artificial intelligence on employment, and that’s what’s been grabbing the headlines over the past couple of days. But a close reading of the report, published last month, shouldn’t lead anyone to brush off the issue — as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin did last year.

The authors of the study, Ljubica Nedelkoska and Glenda Quintini, say the level of automation risk varies widely from country to country. Slovakia comes in on the high side (33 percent), while the projected risk is only 6 percent in Norway.

The high-risk percentage for the U.S. is 10 percent, which is significantly lower than the 47 percent that was cited in a provocative 2013 study by Oxford researchers. But even 10 percent translates to about 15 million U.S. jobs.

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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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