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Competence Centre on Foresight

We foster a strategic, future-oriented and anticipatory culture in the EU policymaking process.

Page | 23 Jul 2019

Technological progress

Technological change has had little effect on the aggregate number of jobs so far, but estimates suggest that AI-enabled machines may expand the scope and spectrum of future job automation.

Rapid implementation of automation and robotics and the emergence of AI and IoT are radically changing the work environment. Smart homes, virtual secretaries, AI doctors, care robots, and flying warehouses and self-driving cars are among the technologies that will shape our future living and impact work.

  • Studies show that by 2035, AI has the potential to double the annual economic growth rates in 12 developed economies analysed.
  • From 2020 to 2022 almost 2 million new units of industrial robots are expected to be installed in factories around the world. By 2022, 4 million industrial robots are being expected to be in use around the world -- more than double the stock of 2017. Investment in industrial robots will grow 10% per year in the 25-biggest export nations through 2025, compared to 2-3% growth in recent years.
  • Robotics industry is growing more rapidly than initially forecasted. BCG (Boston Consulting Group) is projecting robots market to reach $87 billion by 2025, while Tractica --incorporating the robotic and AI elements of the emerging self-driving industry -- is forecasting $237 billion by 2022.
  • The automation of production is accelerating around the world. China is the world's largest industrial robots market (2020) and the robot density in China surpassing global average.
  • Globally, in 2018, on average there were 99 industrial robots installed  per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry. The average robot density in Europe is 99.  74% of global robot installations are found in five countries: China, Japan, the United States, the Republic of Korea and Germany. Germany is the fifth-largest robot market in the world with a total of more than 26 ths. have been installed in 2018.
  • Global assets managed by robo-adviser portfolio managers could reach $13 trillion by 2025 (up from $100 billion as of December 2016), according to a group of equity analysts at Morgan Stanley.
  • Among the top 20 companies filing AI-related patents, 12 are based in Japan, three are from the U.S. and two are from China. China has a strong position in AI innovations due to fewer obstacles to collecting vast amounts of data, notes the WIPO 2019  report.

Impacts on the number of jobs

  • The estimates of the share of jobs that could be automated in the future vary widely across studies; e.g., globally, between loss of some 2 billion, to creation of 375 million by 2025/30.
  • About 50% of current jobs globally, theoretically could be automated. For about 60% of occupations, at least 30% of the constituent activities could be automated. Hence, 40% of the workers' time could be freed up for continuous learning and to exercise or develop creativity. There might be a net loss of over 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies by 2020.
  • Automation is affecting and will affect countries in different ways. About 14% of jobs in OECD countries are automatable and another 32% of jobs could face substantial change in how they are carried out (previous estimate was of 9% of jobs in 21 OECD countries to be automatable -- the highest in Austria and Germany, at 12%). Between 37% to 69% of jobs in the EU could be partly automated in the future. For an additional average of 25% jobs, 50-70% of tasks are likely to change significantly because of automation. Although about 14% of jobs in the EU labour market will face a very high risk of automation, in the survey, 72% of EU citizens expressed fear that technology may “steal their jobs”.
  • Certain sectors, such as transportation, manufacturing, customer services, finance, healthcare and agriculture are particularly susceptible to automation. Some research suggests that "chat robots" and computers could replace almost 250,000 public sector jobs over the next 15 years, in UK alone.
  • Occupations where work organization is highly routinized and limited in social interaction are more likely to be automated. Also jobs that require relatively low levels of formal education are more prone to automation, noted McKinsey in 2017.
  • Women, workers with a lower secondary degree education and workers in lower-wage occupations will be most affected by automation, warns ILO.

| Related Megatrends: TechnologyEducationInequalities;


New technologies are also creating new job opportunities.

  • While there are less new jobs created directly by technological progress, one additional technology job creates around five new, complementary jobs in the local non-tradable sector.
  • Jobs newly created account for 33%-40% of the number of new entrants.
  • Advanced technologies will create new jobs, which will need new sets of skills, some not even known, yet. Automation and AI will accelerate the shift in skills that the workforce needs.
  • In the EU, 2 million new jobs have been created due to digitalization over the last decade and 1.75 million new jobs are expected in ICT by 2030.
  • Jobs requiring the use, maintaining and upgrading of new technologies are expected to continue to emerge and grow faster than others; e.g., some professions of the future may emerge like AI 'trainers' (workers performing tasks useful to train AI systems), AI 'explainers' (workers interpreting the outputs generated by AI systems), and AI 'sustainers' (workers monitoring the work of AI systems).
  • New opportunities in employment will emerge for e.g., programmers and specialists in robot maintenance, in relation to the manufacturing of robots or in the provision of robotics support services.
  • In the ICT sector, the number of practitioners in the EU is estimated to reach some 8.7 million by 2020, with a potential gap between supply and demand of some 500,000.
  • Since AI technology will remain limited and unable to replace human interaction and wisdom, the service and knowledge-work sector could grow 50 - 60% by 2030.
  • In India, that has 600 million people (45% of the country's almost 1.4 billion population) under the age of 25, which if properly trained (around 46% of India’s youth are employable after graduation), will constitute a great asset for the country. In 2016, India produced 2.6 million graduates with STEM skills. Such talent pool is India's biggest asset to drive innovation. Some estimate that India has a potential to create even 1 trillion dollars of economic value from the digital economy in 2025.
  • In Africa, the technology change could help generating the jobs of the future and allow youngest population in the world benefiting from it, but new digital regulations implemented in several African countries may prevent the growth of a tech ecosystem.
  • China - aims to become the world's leader in AI by 2030, thus, creating many IT jobs, which, at their turn will be supporting job creation in other sectors. 

| Related Megatrends: TechnologyEducationInequalities;

  • By 2030, hyper-connected, tech savvy millennials will make up 75% of the workforce
  • An estimated 90% of today's jobs require some IT skills. In the EU, an estimated 61 million people do not have adequate basic skills.
  • Life-long learning and skills-based education are becoming intrinsic to the evolving education system.
  • New technologies and availability of information are making "I don't know" obsolete, creating new skills and knowledge possibilities never known before. 
  • STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is accelerating the adaptation to the emerging working environment, further accelerating the factors of change.
  • The emerging hybrid system supporting inquiry-based learning for self-actualization is fostering creativity and critical thinking, as well as the best use of new technologies and AI tools.
  • Automation and AI are accelerating the demand for technological skills over the next 10-15 years, while the need for basic cognitive skills, and physical and manual skills will decline. Through 2030, the fastest growing need will be for advanced IT and programming skills -- 90% growth compared to 2016, followed by basic digital skills, with an increase by 69% in the USA and by 65% in Europe.
  • The projected talent (degree holders) shortage could be 2.2 million in France by 2020, and 10 million in Germany by 2030.
  • Due to the lack of skilled people in the field, the worldwide skills gap in cybersecurity jobs accounts to 2.9 million. India alone, will need up to 1 million cybersecurity professionals by 2020.
  • An estimated 96% of all workers at threat from technology could find similar or better work with adequate training. In the EU in 2016, only 45.1% of adults aged 25-64 participated in education and training during the last 12 months, notes Eurostat. Closing the Skills Gap 2020 aims to help reskill some 18 million people by 2020.
  • As technology makes data-driven HR decision-making possible, people analytics is gaining speed, increasing the use of workforce data to predict business performance, to better match skills with jobs, and to identify the education & learning gaps to meet future business needs.

| Related Megatrends Technology; InequalitiesEducation;