• Automation will wipe out 85 million jobs across 15 industries and 26 economies by 2025
  • New jobs will be created in the fields of data, artificial intelligence, content creation, the “green” economy and cloud computing
  • By 2025, machines will take over jobs requiring data processing and routine manual tasks

The World Economic Forum, or WEF, said robotics and machinery will eliminate tens of millions of jobs over the next five years, but create just as many – perhaps more -- through the emergence of new technologies.

The WEF, an international nongovernmental organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, said in a survey-based report that accelerating automation will wipe out 85 million jobs across 15 industries and 26 economies by 2025 – but concurrently create 97 million new jobs, particularly in the fields of data, artificial intelligence, content creation, the “green” economy and cloud computing.

Still, the WEF conceded that such a dramatic disruption of labor markets could initially increase inequality and pressure companies around the world to quickly retrain workers in order to compete.

“[Jobs] in areas such as data entry, accounting and administrative support are decreasing in demand as automation and digitization in the workplace increases,” WEF said. “[Approximately] 50% of employers are expecting to accelerate the automation of some roles in their companies.”

About 43% of 300 global companies surveyed said they are preparing to cut their workforces due to the integration of new technologies, 41% are seeking to increase their use of contractors for specific work duties, while 34% actually plan to expand the size of their workforce due to technology integration.

“COVID-19 has accelerated the arrival of the future of work,” said WEF managing director Saadia Zahidi . “Accelerating automation and the fallout from the COVID-19 recession has deepened existing inequalities across labor markets and reversed gains in employment made since the global financial crisis in 2007-2008."

"It’s a double disruption scenario that presents another hurdle for workers in this difficult time.”

By 2025, machines will take over jobs requiring data processing, administrative tasks and routine manual endeavors – hence, posing a particular threat to current low-income, low-skilled workers.

“The good news is that overall, the jobs that are being created still are in greater numbers than the jobs that are being destroyed,” added Zahidi.

Moreover, for workers who remain in their current jobs in the next five years, almost 50% will need to be reskilled.

Despite the high costs of retraining, 66% of employers surveyed by WEF think these efforts will pay off in terms of return on investment within just one year.

Other experts also weighed in on the rapid transformation of the global workforce.

Samantha Humphries, security strategist at Exabeam, a security information and event management firm based in San Mateo, Calif., told Information Age that her company’s own survey revealed that 53% of cybersecurity workers under the age of 45 think that artificial intelligence and machine learning pose a threat to their job security.

Agata Nowakowska, a vice-president at Skillsoft, an educational technology firm, said the WEF report underscores the need for companies to upgrade worker skills.

“The wider ramifications of digitalization projects are proving profound, representing a big problem for employees, who face being left out in the cold due to a lack of digital skills and proficiencies,” she said. “More alarming still is the growing concern that people will become increasingly displaced by machines in the workplace."

Abishur Prakash, a geopolitical futurist based in Toronto, told International Business Times that as it stands right now, automation is eating up more jobs than it’s creating.

“Jobs like bank tellers, retail people or truck drivers, are not coming back,” he said. “And, there’s no clear sign as to what ‘new jobs’ will emerge to replace them. Alongside this, before automation hit, hundreds of millions of people were already jobless because of COVID-19.”

Prakash urged governments to putting these people back to work before geopolitical instability strikes.

“Of course, if tens of millions of new jobs are created, it will ignite brand new industries, ushering in a modern-day renaissance,” he added.