Policy Brief on the Future of Work: Putting faces to the jobs at risk of automation

The tasks that AI and robots cannot do are shrinking rapidly

New technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence are rapidly changing people’s jobs and lives. They have the potential to free up workers to do more productive, less routine tasks and to provide consumers with access to more and better products and services. However, technology will likely change many of the existing jobs, requiring workers and companies to adjust. Some jobs may become entirely redundant although the extent of automation will likely depend on policy, institutions and social preferences.

There has been considerable public debate about the extent of job destruction and whether automation and digitalisation are leading to mass technological unemployment, in which many jobs will be done by computers and robots. This is fuelled by the perception that technological change is faster paced and broader based than in the past, making many more jobs automatable than previously thought. While only 15 years ago computers performed poorly in non-routine cognitive and manual tasks (Autor et al, 2003), cutting-edge technologies now open the possibility for tasks as diverse as medical diagnosis, insurance brokerage and driving to be automated.

While only one in seven jobs may be lost to automation, many others will change significantly

Given the current state of knowledge about the tasks that cannot be automated (the so-called engineering bottlenecks, see the Box below), new research by OECD suggests that 14% of all jobs across the 32 countries analysed have a high risk of automation (Nedelkoska and Quintini, 2018). A further 32% of jobs may experience significant changes to how they are carried out (Chart 1).