In Europe, unemployment has grown significantly in 2020 and is likely to return to pre-crisis levels only in 2024. The areas with the highest number of positions at risk are customer service and sales, catering, and construction. As from the graph below, losses in these sectors are linked to both the pandemic and the rise of automation. In retail, 70% of jobs are at risk due to Covid 19, and 19% due to artificial intelligence. In manufacturing, the number grows to 37%, while in hotel and restaurant services it reaches 94%.
AI will grow over the next ten years, creating new jobs and increasing the skills needed to carry out others. It is expected that by 2030 Europe will adopt automation at 50% of its possibilities. Combining the two factors, we can predict that by 2030 one of the most critical challenges that Europe will have to face will be to find workers with the right skills to fill both existing and newly created positions.
In a medium-use automation scenario (60% of potential), a pre-Covid- 19 survey by McKinsey&Company shows that about half of the world’s workforce activities might be automated. This does not mean that workers carrying out these activities will be unemployed, in fact only 5% of positions can be fully automated. Still, they will need upskilling and reskilling processes to perform tasks that machines cannot, thus creating new job positions (this will affect 30% of occupations). The update of this study, published in June 2020, shows that automation will be effective for about 22% of the European workforce (53 million people) by 2030.
However, the study shows that the actual European workforce is not sufficient for this. Before the pandemic, Europe would have had an increase of 6 million jobs within the next ten years and even in the case, it would have had problems filling those positions redefined by automation and those newly invented. With the pandemic still underway, even with a sharp decline in the positions to be filled, doing so will be a great challenge, especially in dynamic growth hubs (megacities like London or Paris and superstar hubs, great urban areas such as Milan). Not only that, due to the acceleration of the phenomenon due to the pandemic, even if EU will be able to recover and generate those 6 million pre-pandemic jobs the level of employment should increase by another 3% to cover the open positions.
In addition to unemployment, other factors will characterize the workforce of the future. First, the aging of European workforce that will decrease by about 14 million units by the end of the decade (Germany, Italy, and Poland the most affected countries). Second, the fact that the rise of working age population over the past ten years has been driven by the over 55.
Finally, artificial intelligence is opening significant gaps between sectors: agriculture and manufacturing will grow less in terms of workforce, while services will sharply grow. In the coming years, growth will be bigger in sectors that require a medium-high skill level. Three industries seem to account for 70% of the growth of the workforce by 2030: 4.5 million jobs will be added in health and social care, 2 million jobs will be added in professional, scientific, and technical services, as well as the education sector. Among others, STEM professionals (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) will grow by 20% in the next ten years (compared to 18 million today), software developers, nurses, and marketing will increase by 30%. There are fewer professions that do not require tertiary education but that will be growing: technicians in health care, installers and repairers of equipment are some of these.
As it happened with the advent of the internet, AI will create various jobs and make others obsolete. The real challenge will be to train the new workforce to meet this phenomenon.