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By 2025, half of all work tasks will be handled by machines

Half of all work tasks are set to be handled by machines by 2025, according to the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) report.

The shift is likely to worsen inequality, the report says.

The think tank said a robot revolution would create 97 million jobs worldwide but destroy almost as many, leaving some communities at risk. Routine or manual jobs in administration and data processing were most at threat of automation.

More than 50% of employers surveyed said they expected to speed up the automation of some roles in their companies, while 43% felt they were likely to cut jobs due to technology.

WEF said the pandemic had sped up the adoption of new technologies as firms looked to cut costs and adopt new ways of working. But it warned workers now faced a double threat from "accelerating automation and the fallout from the Covid-19 recession.

According to Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft, "The wider ramifications of digitalisation 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. 

"More alarming still is the growing concern that people will become increasingly displaced by machines in the workplace.

"Roles most susceptible to automation include manual repetitive tasks, such as operating machinery and data processing," says Nowakowska.

"But research shows the trend towards automation is already proving especially challenging for women, with significant implications for gender equality in the workplace."

Nowakowska says the challenge for employers is to make sure that everyone, regardless of gender, age or location, shares in the spoils of new technology. 

"Instituting lifelong learning for employees that ensures, reskilling will prove the answer to tectonic shifts in the job market. Giving workers the opportunity to learn new skills that will increase their ability to shift into new roles.

"Organisations will need to think holistically about managing reskilling, upskilling and job transitioning. 

"In addition to opening up technical training and development to a wider candidate base including supporting more female employees to development the skills required to fill identified gaps assessing the digital transformation requirements of the enterprise should help to direct investment priorities for training and development."

Samantha Humphries, security strategist at Exabeam, adds, "This report comes days after Exabeams 2020 Cybersecurity Professionals Salary, Skills and Stress Survey, which revealed 53% of respondents under the age of 45 agreed or strongly agreed that AI and ML are a threat to their job security. 

"Despite 88% of cybersecurity professionals believing automation will make their jobs easier, younger staffers are more concerned that the technology will replace their roles than their veteran counterparts," she says.

"The concern for automation among younger professionals in cybersecurity was surprising to us. In trying to understand this sentiment, we could partially attribute it to lack of on-the-job training using automation technology. 

"As we noted earlier this year in our State of the SOC research, ambiguity around career path or lack of understanding about automation can have an impact on job security," Humphries says.

"It's also possible that this is a symptom of the current economic climate or a general lack of experience navigating the workforce during a global recession."