19th September 2013
Nearly half of US jobs could be at risk of computerisation within 20 years
A study by the Oxford Martin School shows that nearly half of US jobs could be at risk of computerisation within 20 years. Transport, logistics and office roles are most likely to come under threat.
The new study, a collaboration between Dr Carl Benedikt Frey (Oxford Martin School) and Dr Michael A. Osborne (Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford), found that jobs in transportation, logistics, as well as office and administrative support, are at "high risk" of automation. More surprisingly, occupations within the service industry are also highly susceptible, despite recent job growth in this sector.
"We identified several key bottlenecks currently preventing occupations being automated," says Dr. Osborne. "As big data helps to overcome these obstacles, a great number of jobs will be put at risk."
The study examined over 700 detailed occupation types, noting the types of tasks workers perform and the skills required. By weighting these factors, as well as the engineering obstacles currently preventing computerisation, the researchers assessed the degree to which these occupations may be automated in the coming decades.
"Our findings imply that as technology races ahead, low-skilled workers will move to tasks that are not susceptible to computerisation – i.e., tasks that require creative and social intelligence," the paper states. "For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills."
"While computerisation has been historically confined to routine tasks involving explicit rule-based activities, algorithms for big data are now rapidly entering domains reliant upon pattern recognition and can readily substitute for labour in a wide range of non-routine cognitive tasks. In addition, advanced robots are gaining enhanced senses and dexterity, allowing them to perform a broader scope of manual tasks. This is likely to change the nature of work across industries and occupations."
The low susceptibility of engineering and science occupations to computerisation, on the other hand, is largely due to the high degree of creative intelligence they require. However, even these occupations could be taken over by computers in the longer term.
Dr Frey said the United Kingdom is expected to face a similar challenge to the US. "While our analysis was based on detailed datasets relating to US occupations, the implications are likely to extend to employment in the UK and other developed countries," he said.
Full version of the paper: