More than 50% of EU jobs at risk of computerisation

Shipyard workers. Denmark, 2011. [Astrid Westvang/Flickr]

More than half of the jobs in the EU’s 28 member states will be impacted significantly by advances in technology over the coming decades across sectors, according to calculations by the think tank Bruegel.

Bruegel bases its calculations on 2013 data from Frey & Osborne, which predicts that key technological advances, especially in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and mobile robotics, will impact primarily upon low-wage, low-skill sectors traditionally immune from automation.

However, northern EU countries are projected to be less affected than their neighbours. Jobs in Sweden will be least affected by computerisation (46.69%), followed by the UK (47.17%), the Netherlands (49.50%) and France and Denmark (both at 49.54%), according to Bruegel. Meanwhile, Romania will be the most affected country (61.93%), ahead of Portugal (58.94%), Croatia (57.9%)  and Bulgaria (56.56%).

Technological change is likely to become a key policy concern in the coming years, with a dramatic skills gap in Europe within the ICT sector. The consultancy Empirica has predicted that about 900,000 jobs will remain unfilled by 2020, mostly in the higher-end segment of the market.

“What these estimates imply for policy is clear: if we believe that technology will be able to overcome traditional hurdles among non-routine cognitive tasks then we must equip the next generation of workers with skills that benefit from technology rather than being threatened by it. Such skills are likely to emphasise social and creative intelligence, which suggests that appropriate shifts in education policy are surely requisite in order to meet this automated challenge,” Bruegel said in a statement.

A quarter (23%) of EU citizens also believe that their education or training did not give them the skills to find a job that matches their qualifications, according to a Eurobarometer survey.

The survey also shows that 6% who tried to work, or study in another member state, were unable to do so as their qualifications were either not recognised by their prospective employer or educational institution, or the respondents lacked information about recognition of their qualifications abroad.

The number of digital jobs is growing, by 3% each year during the crisis, but the number of new ICT graduates, and other skilled ICT workers, is shrinking.

As a result, Europe faces both hundreds of thousands of unfilled ICT jobs in the future as well as declining competitiveness.

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