There are reports that claim that over a period of time, robots and automation could replace human labor as a whole. However, a recent report published by the World Economic Forum points to another scenario which involves work tasks being carried out through a combination of humans and machines.
The report states that automation mostly takes place in terms of specific work tasks and not in terms of the entire job. In such a situation, it is important to find a way to achieve an optimum balance between humans, machines and algorithms in the work space. This can be achieved only through proper planning and timely investments.
With the increased adoption of technology and automation, humans are likely to be replaced with machines for certain tasks but positions that require human skill might open up in other new areas like app development and drone management.
Automation also helps in removing humans from monotonous tasks and giving them a chance to focus their skills on more complex matters. Some examples of these can be seen in the areas of healthcare, engineering and design.
From 2018 to 2022, contribution from machines to certain tasks is set to increase significantly. The highest is seen in information and data processing where over the next five years, machines will take up 62% of tasks from the current level of 47%. For physical and manual work, the involvement of machines will go up to 44% in 2022 from the 2018 level of 31%.
Tasks like reasoning, decision-making, managing and advising are likely to see the lowest share of contribution from machines with only a 9-10% increase during the said period.
Over the next five years, there will be major shifts in the skills required to execute tasks. While these shifts are likely to vary based on industry and geography, the report points out that a majority of companies would prefer hiring new staff who have the required skills to handle the updated technologies.
Skills like analytical thinking, active learning, creativity and technology design are likely to see high demand in 2022 while skills like manual dexterity, quality control and management of finance and resources are expected to see a lower level of demand.
A large number of companies might choose to fully automate the tasks while some might opt to retrain their existing employees. The report estimates that by 2022, more than 50% of employees will need upskilling and reskilling. With regards to reskilling, a majority of firms prefer to handle it by themselves internally rather than partner with external agencies to undertake the necessary training.
Other options that companies are likely to consider for task execution include outsourcing and hiring temporary workers or freelancers. Companies have a major role to play in terms of achieving a healthy balance between human labor and automation.