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Half of all jobs will be transformed by automation, report shows

A report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a coalition of 36 countries across the globe, has revealed that half of all jobs will be substantially changed by technology within the next two decades. In this time frame, the OECD predicts that 14 percent of jobs will be completely automated, while 32 percent of jobs will be significantly different than they are today.

According to the research, the technological transformation of jobs will not necessarily mean that there will be less jobs available, but that new jobs will require updated skills. “The OECD Employment Outlook does not envisage a jobless future. But it does foresee major challenges for the future of work,” explained OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

The number of highly-skilled jobs which require information and communications technology (ICT) experience has increased by 25 percent over the last 20 years. However, only six out of 10 adults currently have ICT training. The OECD says that a robust adult training program is critical to help workers adapt to the changing workforce.

“In all OECD countries, training participation is lowest among those who need it most, including the low-skilled, older adults and non-standard workers,” the coalition states. “A major overhaul of adult learning programs to increase their coverage and promote quality is needed to harness the benefits of the changing world of work. Measures should include removing time and financial constraints to participation in training, making training rights portable, and providing quality information and counseling.”

Some policy makers have even proposed what is known as a Universal Basic Income, which would be given to all citizens, to ease the burden of an automated future. The money would allow workers to seek additional training for new jobs and provide support for those in positions that will become obsolete.

“Adapting and extending social protection is essential to ensure better coverage for workers in non-standard forms of employment,” states OECD. “Non-standard workers are, in some countries, 40-50% less likely to receive any form of income support while out of work than standard employees. Benefit entitlements should be made portable across jobs and targeted social protection measures complemented with more universal and unconditional support.”

“Even with a rapidly changing economy and the forward march of technology, all we need is a plan,” said Gurria. “With the right policies, we can manage these challenges. We face significant transformation, but we have the opportunity and the determination to use this moment and build a future of work that benefits everyone.”

The study is published in the journal Environmental Health.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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