What Jobs Are Safe From Automation?

The road to automation requires robots to collaborate with humans, rather than simply replacing them altogether. Majority of jobs will still require human intervention to some degree.

The risk of job automation is highest in predictable, manual, and repetitive work environments and in industries with lower regulations.

The risk of automation is lower in unstructured, dynamic, and unpredictable work environments and in industries involving high regulatory scrutiny.

U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs, for example, employed over 600 stock traders at its peak. Thanks to machine-learning algorithms capable of making complex trades, these 600 traders have been reduced to just two. Instead, about one-third of its workforce is now employed as computer engineers.

Amazon, for example, is using 45,000 robots in their warehouses. But at the same time, it is creating thousands of new jobs for humans in its fulfillment centers.

We know that robots are not good at gripping, picking, and handling items in unstructured environments.

Risk of job automation is highest in predictable work environments and in industries with lower regulations. This includes jobs or tasks that are manual and repetitive.

This has happened to manufacturing. It is now impacting over 10.5 million jobs in restaurants, janitorial roles, and warehouses.

In hospitality, the ease of automation is high for repetitive and manual tasks like making coffee or preparing specific dishes. This is particularly true in environments with highly structured processes and menus.

Many startups are working on digital payment and tabletop-ordering software to replace the tasks of cashiers and servers.

Expertise automation and augmentation software (EaaS) is fast replacing entry-level white collar jobs in areas like law (e.g., automatic document analysis and auditing), media (e.g., AI-based news curation and summaries), and even software development.

The good news is that the risk of automation is lower in unstructured or unpredictable work environments. This includes industries involving high regulatory scrutiny.

In healthcare, dynamic decision making in unpredictable work environments makes these patient-facing jobs hard to automate, especially when there is a high degree of emotional intelligence required.

Although trucking is at high risk of automation, this is unlikely to happen widely in the next decade due to regulatory challenges. While technology has the potential to reduce manual labor, it faces regulatory challenges as it still requires a human driver for non-highway driving.

The construction industry, for example, is unstructured and dynamic. It requires human supervision.

Retraining and reskilling employees will be a recurring theme in the future of work. Future-proofing jobs will require constant re-skilling, re-learning, and acquiring of or updated skills and experience so that we can be always future-ready and job-ready and being safe from automation.