Digital Technology Will Eliminate Millions of Jobs But Create New Opportunities

A Study from Boston Consulting Group and Analytics Firm Faethm Quantifies the Impact of Automation Technologies on Job Markets in Three Countries: Australia, Germany, and the US

Technology is upending labor markets, and governments, companies, and individuals need to look beyond aggregate numbers and consider how individual professions will be affected. A new analysis quantifies the impact of technology by 2030 in AustraliaGermany, and the United States. The report, titled The Future of Jobs in the Era of AI, is being released today by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Faethm.

In the report, the authors look at a variety of factors to determine how the supply and demand for individual types of jobs will change. These include shifts in the size of national workforces due to college graduation rates, retirements, and mortality, along with technology adoption rates and the impact of COVID-19 on economic growth. The result is a highly detailed analysis for all three countries across multiple scenarios.

“The net number of jobs lost or gained is an artificially simple metric to gauge the impact of digitization,” said Rainer Strack, a senior partner at BCG and a coauthor of the report. “For example, eliminating 10 million jobs and creating 10 million new jobs would appear to have negligible impact. However, doing so would represent a huge economic disruption for the country—along with the millions of people with their jobs at stake.”

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Highlights for Three Countries

Key results of the analysis include:

  • Australia faces the widest range of potential outcomes. The country will likely experience a labor shortfall of up to 800,000 full-time employees of the national workforce (the difference between the total supply and the total demand in the future workforce) by 2030. But if COVID-19 has a more pronounced long-term impact on GDP growth, the country could actually see a nearly equal labor surplus of approximately 800,000 full-time employees.
  • Germany will likely experience a labor shortfall in five of the six scenarios the authors modeled, ranging from 200,000 to 2.5 million workers.
  • The US will likely experience a labor shortfall in its workforce of 600,000 to 12.5 million people by 2030.

In all three countries, the professions with the biggest looming shortfalls are computer-related occupations and jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math. Meanwhile, in job family groups that involve little or no automation but that do require compassionate human interaction tailored to specific groups—such as health care, social services, and certain teaching occupations—the demand for human skills will increase as well.

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Recommendations for All Stakeholders

The report offers several measures that stakeholders can take to prepare for a digitized future. For example, national governments should hone their predictions of how the workforce will change over time and develop training programs to give displaced workers new skills. “Governments can also build online employment platforms that can help match available talent to open positions and reskilling opportunities,” said Miguel Carrasco, a senior partner at BCG and a coauthor of the report.

Companies should anticipate the skills and capabilities they will need to succeed in the future, improve their recruiting and retention programs, and build a culture of lifelong learning. And individuals can help as well, by proactively learning new skills and being flexible about changes over time.

“As countries prepare to meet the twin demands of the digital age and the economic effects of COVID-19, they must understand the challenges that lie ahead,” said Michael Priddis, the CEO of Faethm and a coauthor of the report. “This means making use of more sophisticated analytical models to predict supply and demand in the labor market and integrating them into the foundation of their workforce strategies.”

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