A new study on jobs says that nearly 400 million people worldwide will need to learn new skills and occupations to stay employable by 2030.
The findings, released Wednesday by the McKinsey Global Institute, indicate that the middle class — if it is to grow or even remain steady — will have to make significant adjustments in skill-learning, education and, most of all, mindset.
If we look around us, the economy that will make such a sea change possible is already evolving as technology speeds ahead: Today we have self-driving cars, ride-sharing services, couriers that come inside our homes, and more.
McKinsey’s latest report is a followup to its January findings on automation, but goes deeper into the creative possibilities of the future, imagining the number and types of jobs that might be created and lost over the next 13 years as the means of productivity change.
Before you start panicking, the report stresses that although robots are set to become a more important piece of the global workforce, employment in specific industries won’t necessarily decline as more workers will simply perform new tasks as part of the workflow.
Some jobs which will be better suited for automation will include “physical ones in predictable environments” such as:
- Operating machinery
- Preparing fast food
- Collecting and processing data, which ” increasingly can be done better and faster with machines”
The study says this will displace huge labor pools in “mortgage origination, paralegal work, accounting, and back-office transaction processing.”
The simple fact is that many jobs just don’t lend themselves to automation, and that will continue to be the case in the workplace of the future. Occupations that take a tremendous amount of social interaction will be largely resistant to technological shifts at work as will jobs that happen in unpredictable environments. So, what are those jobs?
- Managing people
- Applying expertise and interacting with different people i.e. “where machines are unable to match human performance for now”
- Child- and elder-care providers
The study says these jobs are by and large “technically difficult to automate” and can’t be reproduced by robotic means. Additionally, these jobs typically command relatively lower wages, making automation not as cost-effective for businesses.
More job growth will come from developing and deploying new technologies, the study says, as tech spending is expected to jump by more than 50% over the next decade and a half.
While the number of jobs created in tech will be small (up to 50 million globally by 2030) compared to more traditional industries such as health care or construction, they will pay much better, especially the field of information technology.
With the push in technology, don’t be tempted into thinking the future will be all “Jetsons” and not a bit of “Flintstones”: Vocational trades, if the powers that be reverse the trend of underspending in buildings and infrastructure, will be hot, the study says. More construction will mean 80 to 200 million more jobs for the world’s architects, engineers, electricians, carpenters and other skilled people.
All of this is good news for workers today, yet, there are still some steps to take to remain a valued and skilled worker today.
- Deepen your expertise: It’s never too late to pick up new things. The Inc.com calls this “learning how to learn.”
- Network: Involve other people in your journey and “network with people who have jobs you inspire to,” an expert tells Time.
- Document your development: Sense yourself becoming stagnant. FastCompany says it’s a good idea to keep a professional development log to track ways you’ve expanded your opportunities, or enrolled in classes or other continuing education.
And what about the countless number of domestic workers who aren’t officially counted in the employment ranks? The McKinsey study says they will benefit from the continuing trend of “marketization,” translating into 50 to 90 million jobs added for occupations such as childcare, early-childhood education, cleaning, cooking, and gardening.
For the United States, the study is more relevant to the middle class, which is already accommodating new technologies.
“Taking these factors into account, our new research estimates that between almost zero and 30 percent of the hours worked globally could be automated by 2030, depending on the speed of adoption,” the study says.
Money expert Clark Howard says all of this is no reason for alarm. “The nature of work never stops changing. When you see that horrific number, know that we will be fine.” He continues: “Automation and robots are not the enemy – it takes jobs to run and maintain them. This works both ways. Assembly line robots eliminated a health hazard by taking over vehicle painting in auto body paint shops – and do so flawlessly. Everyone can win.”