Stories about robots taking over from humans have become prevalent. Recently we’ve written about a new Manhattan Shake Shack replacing human cashiers with robots, killer robots (a.k.a. lethal autonomous weapons systems), a Californian real estate company replacing commission-based human agents with robots, a cocaine workshop in Brazil with robots packing 150,000 baggies a day and the first robot to be awarded citizenship which hopes for “harmony with humans”. No chance.
In June, we discussed a McKinsey & Co. report which stated that US manufacturing could be poised for a recovery and not because of Trump’s policies. Indeed, McKinsey’s rationale was based on automation weakening the case for labour arbitrage. James Manyika, McKinsey Global Institute director, commented.
“Even if we rebuild factories here and you build plants here, they’re just not going to employ thousands of people — that just doesn’t happen. Find a factory anywhere in the world built in the last 5 years — not many people work there.”
Pressing home the bad news for humans everywhere, both in developed and emerging nations. McKinsey has published a new report with truly dire conclusions, as Bloomberg reports.
As many as 800 million workers worldwide may lose their jobs to robots and automation by 2030, equivalent to more than a fifth of today’s global labor force. That’s according to a new report covering 46 nations and more than 800 occupations by the research arm of McKinsey & Co.
The consulting company said Wednesday that both developed and emerging countries will be impacted. Machine operators, fast-food workers and back-office employees are among those who will be most affected if automation spreads quickly through the workplace.
This fits with a Bloomberg chart we’ve used before showing industries most at risk to automation.
There is some “moderately” good news, if the robotic takeover is “less rapid” than McKinsey is currently forecasting.
some 400 million workers could still find themselves displaced by automation and would need to find new jobs over the next 13 years, the McKinsey Global Institute study found.
If you’re one of the 800 million, or maybe 400 million, displaced workers, don’t despair if you like gardening or looking after the elderly. Bloomberg continues.
The good news for those displaced is that there will be jobs for them to transition into, although in many cases they’re going to have to learn new skills to do the work. Those jobs will include health-care providers for aging populations, technology specialists and even gardeners, according to the report.
“We’re all going to have to change and learn how to do new things over time,” Michael Chui, a San Francisco-based partner at the institute, said in an interview.
Somehow, we doubt that the optimistic Mr. Chui is referring to himself, although you never know. We remember working for a high-profile British merchant bank in the 1990s, let’s just call it S.G. Warburg, which, after decades of success had lost its way slightly. The Chairman – often referred to as the “Fat Controller” by his underlings – invited the bank’s leading shareholders to dinner. We’re paraphrasing, but his message was “Don’t worry, we’ve got McKinsey coming in.” Hearing that, the major shareholders decided that the “game was up” and the bank lost its independence afterwards. Meanwhile, after another robot report from McKinsey, we like to find solace in previous predictions of labour market demise.
“We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come—namely, technological unemployment” – Keynes, 1930
“Labor will become less and less important..More and more workers will be replaced by machines. I do not see that new industries can employ everybody who wants a job” –Leontief, 1952
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