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Work in an Age of Automation

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WASHINGTON, DC/PARIS – From truck drivers using GPS systems to nurses recording patients’ vital signs to train conductors checking tickets with hand-held devices, everybody nowadays needs some basic digital skills. Demand for digitally savvy workers has been rising quietly over the last decade or more, but that shift is now gathering pace, and it is transforming the entire labor market, not just the tech sector.

In a recent report, the McKinsey Global Institute compares the number of hours workers currently spend using 25 core skills in five categories – physical and manual, basic cognitive, higher cognitive, social and emotional, and technological – to the number of hours they will spend on those skills in 2030. Unsurprisingly, given the wider use of automation and artificial intelligence, we expect a 55% jump in demand for all types of technological skills, from basic digital knowledge to advanced skills like programming.

Demand for social and emotional skills that machines lack – such as the ability to work in teams, to lead others, to negotiate, and to empathize – will also rise sharply. The number of jobs requiring such skills – in sectors like health care, education, sales and marketing, and management – will increase by 24%.

Demand for some higher cognitive skills, especially creativity........

© Project Syndicate