The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the impact of automation on the job market, leading to nearly 9 million workers changing occupations between 2019 and 2022, according to a recent study by McKinsey Global Institute. This represents a 50% increase in job switches compared to the prior three years. The study predicts that by 2030, an additional 12 million workers may change jobs as low-wage positions continue to decline, while higher-paying professional roles experience growth.
Impact of Generative AI
The study highlights the significant shift in the types of jobs that workers are leaving and joining. Many individuals have moved away from low-wage positions in sectors such as food services, customer service, office support, and production. On the other hand, high-wage roles in science, technology, healthcare, business, legal, and management have seen an increase in demand.
Saurabh Sanghvi, a McKinsey partner and coauthor of the report, emphasizes the importance of addressing this shift to ensure economic mobility for workers. He suggests that solving mismatches and providing appropriate training for these new roles could drive upward mobility and benefit the overall economy.
The impact of generative artificial intelligence (AI) is also noted in the study. While automation was already projected to affect around 21.5% of hours worked by 2030, the introduction of generative AI has accelerated this figure to 29.5%. However, the study indicates that rather than eliminating jobs, generative AI is more likely to change the nature of professional roles in the short term. It may enable workers to focus on more creative and higher-level tasks while automating repetitive and administrative functions.
Major Adjustments Needed
Despite the potential benefits of automation and generative AI, the labor market transformation will require significant adjustments. The report suggests a need for a substantial increase in training programs and the adoption of new hiring practices. The changing landscape demands a focus on workers’ capacity to learn, their intrinsic capabilities, and their transferable skills, rather than just their credentials, according to the study.
The pandemic’s influence on the workforce is also evident. As consumers shift to e-commerce and offices see fewer workers, many customer-facing jobs in food service and office support are vanishing. The report estimates that 10 million of the projected 12 million occupational changes by 2030 will come from industries like these. Occupations such as clerks, retail associates, administrative assistants, and cashiers are likely to see substantial declines in employment due to the automation of repetitive tasks.
Benefits of Automation
Despite the challenges posed by the changing job landscape, the study remains optimistic about the potential benefits of automation. It suggests that a more productive workforce, driven by automation and generative AI, could lead to a faster-growing economy and, ultimately, increased hiring in new occupations.