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Report: Reskilling workers due to automation will cost $34 billion

Workers in assembly line
Making control units for tanks and airplanes in 1943. Photo: FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty

The U.S. government and private companies will need to pay $34 billion to reskill 1.4 million workers who may lose their jobs to automation in the coming years, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum.

Yes, but: Most of that cost will have to be covered by the government because only about 25% of it will be cost-efficient for business, Saadia Zahidi, managing director of the World Economic Forum, told Axios.

What's happening: The World Economic Forum, meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland, sought to put a dollar amount on the fundamental reskilling of the workforce that will be necessary against a huge wave of automation presumed to be on its way.

  • The 1.4 million displaced workers due to robotization, an estimate originally from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is a fraction of what prior major forecasts estimated, including Oxford University and the McKinsey Global Institute.
  • Zahidi says that if the larger estimates are right, the cost of reskilling will be that much higher.
  • Many of those to be displaced will have to learn entirely different occupations, according to the report.

The report also said that 18% of those displaced, or 252,000 people, will not be reskillable economically, so the government will have to step in with public assistance.

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