Updated Jan 24, 2018 - Economy

A grim future for workers who don't learn new skills

Almost 1 million Americans will see their occupations vanish entirely by 2026, and will have to train for a wholesale career change or probably not find equally paid work, according to a report by the World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting. This interactive visual shows what they found.

The bottom line: In all, some 1.4 million Americans will lose their jobs to technological change in the next eight years, including 70 percent whose job type will just disappear. Without new skills, according to the report, 575,000 of them — 41% — will have either minuscule or no chance of finding other work. Women may be disproportionately affected.

Data: World Economic Forum and Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios
Data: World Economic Forum and Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios

The impact: Even if they do find work using their current skills, many will on average earn $8,600 less per year. These are the people who must start thinking now about what their next career might be, the report suggests. "Overall, the scale of re-skilling suggests that we need a skilling revolution," Oliver Cann, a spokesman for the World Economic Forum, tells Axios.

  • Some 57% of the new jobless will be women, many of them falling out of low-paid occupations, according to the report, whose analysis draws on data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • How to read the chart above: The size of the circles reflect the number of workers in each sector in 2016. Their places on the chart indicate what percentage of the jobs are held by females. Float the cursor over any circle, and see how much job loss or gain is forecast by 2026.

Among the findings:

  • 800,000 of the jobless will be women, who with their current skills will have only about half the number of new job options as unemployed men.
  • 164,000 of them — 20% — will be relatively low-paid secretaries and administrative assistants. That compares with just 90,000 lower-paid male assembly-line workers.
  • Yes, but: the chart above assumes an aggressive reskilling program results in most of them — apart from those working in the production sector — finding new work. And 74% of the women who do land work will probably be paid more than in their old job, versus 53% of the men.

One problem is a serious gulf of understanding between executives and workers, according to another new study, released by Accenture:

  • 74% of executives say they plan to use artificial intelligence to automate tasks in their workplace the next three years, and 47% say skills shortages are a key rationale.
  • Yet only 3% intend to significantly increase investments in training in the same time period.

These executives say only 26% of their work force is ready to learn new skills for new jobs, and about one in four of these business leaders say a key obstacle is that their employees are resistant to such training.

Only that appears to be false: 67% of workers said they consider it important to develop skills to work with intelligent machines in the next three to five years.

  • Ellyn Shook, Accenture's chief leadership and human resources officer, tells Axios that executives may not have surveyed their workers directly, and may wrongly assume that coming automation is "making people nervous."
  • Workers are consumers, too, she said, and so are excited by what technological changes may bring.
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