Office and administrative jobs, as well as roles in media, manufacturing, construction and general maintenance, could soon be swallowed up by robots, The Telegraph reports.
As many as 7.1m jobs could be lost through redundancy and automation, with the greatest losses in white-collar office and administrative roles, according to an in-depth report on the future of jobs by Swiss-based World Economic Forum.
The authors say the world is in the middle of a new industrial revolution, with artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology set to “cause widespread disruption”.
Office and administrative roles will face the largest decline, falling by five per cent between now and 2020. Jobs in manufacturing and production will fall by almost two per cent, and those in media and entertainment will drop by 1.5 per cent.
People in traditional sales roles will also be affected, as an explosion in automated checkouts and higher take-up of online shopping will reduce the number of people needed at the tills.
“Without urgent and targeted action today to manage the near-term transition and build a workforce with futureproof skills, governments will have to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality, and businesses with a shrinking consumer base,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.
Despite the creation of 2.1m new jobs, mainly in architecture and engineering, there will be a net loss of 5m jobs in 15 of the world’s most advanced economies, which together account for 65% of the global workforce.
The report’s authors warn that women will be disproportionately hit by the job cuts, losing five jobs for every job gained, compared with men losing three jobs for every job gained.
The UK as a whole will record 2.91 job losses for every job created. This is one of the highest rates among developed countries, and compares to a net loss of 1.37 in the US and 1.14 in Turkey.
Changes in skills required will be most pronounced in financial services, where 43% of the top skills needed across the sector are expected to change by 2020.
Data analysts will see the largest surge in job openings, as companies rely on them to make sense and derive insights from the torrent of data generated by robots and automated processes.
There will also be a boom in specialised sales representatives, who will need to explain complicated technological innovations to businesses, governments and consumers.
The authors surveyed chief human resources officers and top strategy executives from companies across 15 countries, including Australia, Brazil, China, Turkey, the US and the UK.
A separate study published by Boston Consulting Group last year predicted that by 2025 up to a quarter of current jobs would not be performed by humans any more. Three months ago, Bank of America Merrill Lynch warned that 45% of all manufacturing tasks would be automated within a decade, up from 10% today.