More women could initially be impacted by the rise of automation: study

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Women cover themselves from the rain as they walk through the paddock area before the first practice session of the Australian F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne March 16, 2012. Reuters/Daniel Munoz

More female workers could initially feel the impact of rising automation while men are more likely to be impacted in the third wave by the mid-2030s, a new study suggests. This is due to current gender profiles of employment by sector and the types of tasks that are more inclined to automation.

A report published on Monday by PwC examined the impacts of overlapping waves of automation to the 2030s. Researchers analysed the skills and tasks involved in the jobs of more than 200,000 workers across 29 countries to assess the possible impact of automation on workers in various industry sectors and of different genders, education levels and ages.

Women could be a harder hit in early waves of automation that apply, for instance, to clerical roles. As for the potential impacts by education, less well-educated workers will likely be exposed to automation.

The findings highlight the significance of increased investment in learning. “Our analysis highlights the need for increased public and private investment in education and skills to help people adapt to technological change throughout their careers,” John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, said.

On average across the nations involved, it was estimated that the share of jobs at potential high risk of automation is just about 3 percent by the early 2020s. This is expected to rise to nearly 20 percent by 2020s and about 30 percent by the mid-2030s.

The estimated proportion of occupations with high potential automation rates by the mid-2030s varies by country. The estimate is just about 20-25 percent in some East Asian and Nordic economies with relatively high average education levels. Countries with services-dominated economies such as the United States and the UK tend to have intermediate potential automation rates.

PwC also noted potential impacts by industry sector. The estimated share of existing occupations with potential high rates of automation by the mid-2030s varies across sectors, up to only 8 percent for the education sector from a median across countries of 52 percent for transportation and storage.

As driverless vehicles roll out, transport is seen as a leading sector with comparatively high longer-term potential automation rates. This will be most felt in the third wave of autonomous automation. Sectors like financial services could be more exposed in the shorter term as algorithms outperform humans in an ever wider range of tasks that involved pure data analysis.

PwC is a network of firms in 158 countries. It delivers quality in assurance, advisory and tax services.

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