Experts gathered at the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday to try to predict the future of work in a rapidly changing world.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and a panel of business, labor and thought leaders discussed opportunities and challenges for the future.
In opening the forum, Lagarde noted that rapid advances in automation and technology offer opportunity, but there can also be costs.
“Ninety percent of the jobs that will be had by our young children or grandchildren simply don’t exist today. Now, we expect all of them to benefit from technology changes, but this might not necessarily be true,” said Lagarde.
The forum focused on three areas: the technological innovations that will bring about changes in our workplaces and labor markets, the socioeconomic impact of technological innovation and the skills and education necessary to adapt to change and how to design policies that respond to change while ensuring sustainable and inclusive prosperity.
Fears of robots replacing all workers are overblown, said James Manyinka, the Chairman of
McKinsey Global Institute. He said only a small percentage of jobs can be fully automated, though technology will transform a great number of occupations.
“Something like 60 percent of occupations have about 1/3 of their activities that can be automated. So, what does this all mean. What it actually says is that we’re going to have, yes, we are going to have some jobs that will disappear, but we’re probably going to have many more that are going to change as people work alongside machines – especially machines that are rapidly changing. And, we’re also, to your point, we’re going to have new occupations as a result,” said the think tank director.
Panelists noted that the movement toward more informal jobs and freelance work should be watched to protect workers.
“So, I think, top of my list is the kinds of protections that will allow people to have flexible, but not insecure work,” said Deborah Greenfield, Deputy Director-General for Policy, International Labour Organization.