Women, minorities most likely to lose jobs to robots

Many industries are being transformed by automation, leaving many at risk of losing their jobs- some more than others.
11 April 2018

As AI replaces humans’ jobs, which demographics will be hardest hit? Source: Shutterstock

A cross the globe, a march of AI-powered robots with algorithmic veins and metal hearts are threatening the existence of millions of jobs. But it seems that not everyone is at risk of being replaced by automation.

A recent study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) found that in the EU, those workers with a secondary education at most, and a below median income are likely to be impacted by technology-driven labor loss.

According to the study, the job industry that is most likely to decline is ‘Office and Administrative’, while the ‘Architecture and Engineering’ industry is an industry that is accelerating most. What is notable is that both these sectors contain a pretty large gender disparity.

Another WEF report predicts that two-thirds of the expected 7 million job losses over the next five years will happen in the office and administration areas, as self-serving checkouts, online sales, and automated book-keeping processes become more popular. With this industry being female dominated, women will become more likely than men to lose jobs as the age of automation increases.

To add to this finding of women being more at risk, research has found that  97 percent of cashiers are expected to lose their jobs in the coming years due to automation. And as of 2016 figures, 73 percent of cashier workers are women.

Cashier workers are expected to experience a big hit by the wave of automation. Source: Shutterstock

But it seems that women are not the only group found to be disproportionately impacted by the rise of automation. The Brookings Institution assessed the automation potential of 20 occupations in which racial groups are most present and then compared this to the number of workers in each occupation to configure the impact of automation on race.

From this, it was found that Latin-Americans are faced with the highest automation potential (60 percent) followed by African-Americans at 50 percent.

Additionally, it was found that not only are minorities’ jobs more likely to be overtaken by automation, but they are also less likely to engage in retraining programs needed to help adapt.

“Overcoming the biases – unseen or otherwise – that are keeping us from closing the gender gap represents an overwhelming economic as well as moral imperative,” said Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

In the EU, it was found that workers with lower-skills are half as likely to participate in learning activities as the general EU population.

With minority populations and women being less technologically literate than others, retraining programs that require computer literacy and consist of tech-heavy tasks are likely to leave these populations even further behind in the journey of automation.

Therefore, it is essential that education and re-training programs for individuals with a lower educational background take into account factors such as digital literacy.

Automation is an inevitable force needed to accelerate many industries, bringing an abundance of benefits to society. But it is important to consider how such benefits will be distributed equally to give the opportunity of growth to all members of society, regardless of race, age, or gender.