The start of the curve: quantifying the impact of job automation

We are bombarded on almost a weekly basis by sensationalist headlines about automation replacing the global workforce, including this pearler from the New York Times:
“Will robots take our children’s jobs?”
Here’s my favourite paragraph from the doomsday prediction:

Yes, robots have the potential to outsmart us and destroy the human race. But first, artificial intelligence could make countless professions obsolete by the time my sons reach their 20s.

Truly frightening stuff.
The piece goes on to list the highly skilled professions of radiographer, pilot, lawyer, and surgeon, as careers that could go under the knife in the coming decades.
The key word here is ‘could’. It’s speculation, conjecture. These hypothetical studies make long-term predictions based on job or task characteristics and their suscepitiblity to be replaced. Surgeons must cut with precision. Robots do cut with precision. You get the gist. Yes, in the twenty years time we could see R2D2 wearing scrubs, ready to effortlessly pluck a burst appendix from a body on the verge of sepsis, but what is happening right now? What jobs are currently being impacted by automation? And what knowledge can we draw from these findings?
Global jobs website Adzuna has taken a different approach to that of six recent studies published by global organisations, including the OECD, which focus on the new types of jobs being created and what that means for current occupations and industries.
These studies are based on the growth in computing power which, if the upward trend persists, will reach the level of a human brain in approximately 10 years.

Adzuna tackles the conundrum by looking back, not forward, and examining real observed trends in job vacancies in recent years. If we are at the point of inflection of the curve, then shouldn’t we already be able to see some early evidence for job losses caused by automation? That is the question Adzuna seeks to investigate.
This is the first study of its kind and looks at job vacancy levels since 2015 . The findings have been extracted from one of the largest archives of job advertisements on the planet. 79 million, in fact.
Adzuna has undertaken this study to arm the talent industry with information that can help them put the best foot forward with their long term planning.
The analysis of the job’s data from the United Kingdom from January 2015 to February 2017 leads to three main conclusions:

  • 13 out of 20 of the fastest declining jobs have declined due to the effects of automation. This includes 3 occupations which have had declines driven specifically by advancements in AI technology.
  • Changes in job vacancies over this period do not support predictions by leading studies on the impact of job automation.
  • Although AI and automation have not affected job vacancies in the way predicted by recent studies, the evidence suggests and overall level of decline due to automation which indicates we are at the start of the curve.

Download our white paper, penned by Head of Data Science at Adzuna, James Neave, titled, “The Start of the Curve – Quantifying the impact of job automation.”
Cover image: Shutterstock

This article is sponsored by Adzuna

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