Will a Robot Take Your Job?

On my third day in a row of a 9-hour shift at the checkouts, I felt like a robot. It left me wondering, would a robot be being doing this job in the future? Why had I not been replaced by a self-checkout machine 5 metres down from me? Grocery shopping is becoming increasingly faster and efficient. Large supermarket chains are even cutting out the checkout completely with the likes of Waitrose’s

'Quick Check’ service, where one can scan their items as they move around and just ‘pay and go’ at

the end with no need to unpack (1). However, I quickly realised without the checkouts, I wouldn’t have had a job. The World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that the digital revolution will create 133 million new jobs, but 75 million jobs are likely to be eliminated (2). Fears of technologically driven unemployment have occurred throughout the centuries, frequently triggered by disruption such as the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, Covid-19 will be the new catalyst for digital transformation and implementation. However, other trends such as ageing populations and climate change also play a part in job creation (3).

Currently, the green economy is creating new jobs faster than jobs are disappearing in the polluting

sector. However, in the Jobs of Tomorrow report by WEF (2020), it showed growth is largest among

care roles (such as medical assistants, personal aides) and smallest among green professions (4). This may be due to factors such as the higher consumer cost of green energy slowing demand and government policies. The report identified the seven key professional clusters and predicted growth of these key sectors over the three coming years, as shown below:

· 37% of opportunities is in the Care Economy

· 17% in Sales, Marketing and Content

· 16% in Data and AI

· 12% in Engineering and Cloud Computing

· 10% in Product Development

· 8% in People and Culture

· Green professions remain low, with 117,200 openings.

The roles with the highest rate of growth within high-volume jobs, which span all 7 profession clusters include jobs such as Artificial Intelligence Specialists, Medical Transcriptionists and Data Scientists. The roles with the highest rate of growth within lower-volume jobs are shown to be in jobs such as Social Media Assistants, Wind Turbine Service Technicians and Green Marketers.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean Bachelor of Arts degree will be forgotten in three years or everyone should consider a conversion to Computer Science. While technology skills such as data science and AI skills will undoubtedly be critical to the future of work, the report shows the diverse skill sets will be in demand in the future. “Soft skills” which robots cannot (yet) develop such as leadership and caregiving were deemed important in the report as well as general soft skills needed in all professions including; communication, negotiation, creativity and problem-solving.

“Demand for both “digital” and “human” factors is driving growth in the professions of the future” as stated in the report.

With regards to jobs that may disappear, drivers, postal workers, travel agents, printers and publishers were a few of the many jobs that are predicted to no longer exist or will exist in very few numbers in the next 10 years (5). This is due to reasons such as online algorithms and self-driving cars.

What does this mean for current employers and graduates?

The challenges with new jobs will be ensuring that workers have the skills and support needed to transition to new jobs. By 2022, 54% of all employees will require significant re and up skilling (4). A report by McKinsey says workers of the future might have to spend more time on activities such as managing people, applying expertise and communicating with others, requiring the soft skills mentioned previously (6). Many of these skills are now being measured by online ‘games’, a form of psychometric testing in recruitment.

As for graduates, they must be prepared for new forms of psychometric testing and build a ‘future-facing skill set’ (7). There are many online bootcamps or other courses offering intensive training in digital skills such as python coding and website building. They will have to think beyond degree programs and demonstrate competency in a technically driven world.

Well... perhaps that 9-hour shift made me realise I am not a robot.


  1. Waitrose, n.d. Fast-track your shopping with Quick Check. [Online] Available at: https://www.waitrose.com/home/about_waitrose/quick_check.html

  2. Younger, J., 2020. The Future Of Work According To WEF Davos 2020: 5 Minute Summary. [Online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonyounger/2020/02/01/the-future-of-work-according-to-wef-davos-2020-quick-summary/#5bcc39cb5b2c

  3. Pearson, n.d. The Future of Skills. [Online] Available at: https://futureskills.pearson.com/research/#/welcome-video.

  4. World Economic Forum, 2020. Jobs of Tomorrow Mapping Opportunity in the New Economy. [Online] . Available at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Jobs_of_Tomorrow_2020.pdf. (Figure 4)

  5. Becker, S., 2018. 15 Jobs That Will Be Gone in 10 Years. [Online] Available at: https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/jobs-that-will-be-gone-in-10-years.html/

  6. McKinsey & Company, 2017. Jobs lost, jobs gained: What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages. [Online] Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/jobs-lost-jobs-gained-what-the-future-of-work-will-mean-for-jobs-skills-and-wages

  7. Pearson, n.d. Merging work & learning to develop the human skills that matter. [Online] Available at: https://www.pearson.com/content/dam/one-dot-com/one-dot-com/global/Files/about-pearson/innovation/open-ideas/DDE_Pearson_Report_3.pdf

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