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  • Business Impact

    Every study we could find on what automation will do to jobs, in one chart

    There are about as many opinions as there are experts.

    You’ve seen the headlines: “Robots Will Destroy Our Jobs—and We’re Not Ready for It.” “You Will Lose Your Job to a Robot—and Sooner Than You Think.” “Robots May Steal as Many as 800 Million Jobs in the Next 13 Years.”

    Such stories are tempting to take at face value. Who wouldn’t want to know if their livelihood, or that of their children, will soon be in jeopardy?

    Here’s the problem: the findings cited emanate from a wide array of studies released by companies, think tanks, and research institutions. And their prognostications are all over the map. They’re coming so fast and thick, in fact, that we here at MIT Technology Review decided to start keeping tabs on all the numbers different groups have come up with about predicted job losses (and some gains) at the hands of automation, robots, and AI.

    Predicted Jobs Automation Will Create and Destroy
    When Where Jobs
    Destroyed
    Jobs Created Predictor
    2016 worldwide 900,000 to 1,500,000 Metra Martech
    2018 US jobs 13,852,530* 3,078,340* Forrester
    2020 worldwide 1,000,000-2,000,000 Metra Martech
    2020 worldwide 1,800,000 2,300,000 Gartner
    2020 sampling of 15 countries 7,100,000 2,000,000 World Economic Forum (WEF)
    2021 worldwide 1,900,000-3,500,000 The International Federation of Robotics
    2021 US jobs 9,108,900* Forrester
    2022 worldwide 1,000,000,000 Thomas Frey
    2025 US jobs 24,186,240* 13,604,760* Forrester
    2025 US jobs 3,400,000 ScienceAlert
    2027 US jobs 24,700,000 14,900,000 Forrester
    2030 worldwide 2,000,000,000 Thomas Frey
    2030 worldwide 400,000,000-800,000,000 555,000,000-890,000,000 McKinsey
    2030 US jobs 58,164,320* PWC
    2035 US jobs 80,000,000 Bank of England
    2035 UK jobs 15,000,000 Bank of England
    No Date US jobs 13,594,320* OECD
    No Date UK jobs 13,700,000 IPPR

    As you can see, no one agrees. Predictions range from optimistic to devastating, differing by tens of millions of jobs even when comparing similar time frames. We also found numerous predictions focused on losses in one industry, and many that were the result of a single technology, like autonomous vehicles.  

    Of course, not all statistics are created equal. The most commonly cited numbers are from three places: a 2013 Oxford study (not listed in the table) that said 47 percent of US jobs are at high risk of automation in the next few decades, an OECD study suggesting that 9 percent of jobs in the organization’s 21 member countries are automatable, and a McKinsey report from last year that said 400 million to 800 million jobs worldwide could be automated by 2030.

    In short, although these predictions are made by dozens of global experts in economics and technology, no one seems to be on the same page. There is really only one meaningful conclusion: we have no idea how many jobs will actually be lost to the march of technological progress.

    Want to stay up to date on the future of work? Sign up for our new newsletter, Clocking In.

    Update: The table footnote was clarified to indicate some of the job numbers were extrapolations by MIT Technology Review based on percentages listed in the reports. The 2013 Oxford study was removed from the table at the authors' request because it doesn't give a specific job loss figure or timescale.

    Keep up with the latest in robotics at EmTech MIT.
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    September 11-14, 2018
    MIT Media Lab

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