A safe workplace requires ‘brains’
Automation will massively change the world of work. Which jobs will stay, which will disappear? A study by the EU Commission looks for answers.
UM – 01/2020
The Directorate-General for Employment,
Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL) in collaboration with the London School
of Economics and Political Science (LSE Consulting), has investigated how the
world of work will change over the next ten years as a result of the ongoing
automation of work processes. The aim is to support policy debate on the future
of work in the 4th Industrial Revolution. The results are of a
rather general nature with regression analysis based on data from 25 EU
study ‘What Work Disappears’).
People, brains & brawn
The chosen methodology analyses and relates
three factors that determine each profession and job to a different degree. The
variable ‘people’ is for the activities and skills needed to interact with other people
in a job and the
variable ‘brains’ is for those that
require abstract thinking. ‘Brawn’, on the other hand, refers to purely
physical requirements and skills that are needed when working with machines and
tools. The correlation of the three variables makes it possible to estimate how likely it is that a job will exist or not exist in ten years.
Muscles becoming increasingly unimportant
The general conclusion of the analysis is
that jobs that require a high level of competence in non-linear thinking
(‘brains’) are less
likely to be replaced by machines. Jobs that
require both abstract thinking and engagement with other people are also
comparatively safe. Unsurprisingly, highly physical work (‘brawn’) is most
likely to fall victim to automation. Unless the jobs in question have strong
social interaction and involve intellectual challenges in addition to physical
demands. The stronger these factors are, the more likely these jobs are to survive.
However, the study also shows that the real situation is complex. The future of
work in each country also depends on the extent to which the jobs in that country can be automated at all. According to the theoretical analysis, in areas
that should be more at risk of substitution, the Scandinavian countries and France
have a comparatively high share of specific jobs that are considered
non-automatable, which protects them. This is also true for Germany, where many
jobs are strongly geared towards social interaction. Conversely, jobs in Ireland and the
Czech Republic, which are comparatively safe in theory, are
nevertheless at risk because many of them can be easily automated.
Consequently, policymakers must always take a more detailed look if they want to examine which measures are needed to ensure that
the skills and competences required on the labour markets in the future are
safeguarded and promoted in a targeted manner.