Automation will have its biggest impact on workers at the beginning and end of their careers, according to a new report by analyst firm McKinsey.
Automation will eventually impact everything from food service and production work to customer service—in all, some 40 percent of U.S. jobs may melt away by 2030. (Hat tip to Axios for the original rundown of the report.)
But jobs that involve a lot of repetitive processes could ultimately take one of the biggest hits from automation—which in turn could impact the aforementioned entry-level jobs. Junior programmers and QA specialists, for example, could find much of their daily workload taken over by apps.
The McKinsey report is a lot more dire than the one issued late last year by Forrester, which suggested that automation could kill some 10 percent of U.S. jobs by the end of this year, while creating the equivalent of 3 percent of the current job stock. Granted, McKinsey is looking at a much longer timeline, during which A.I. and machine learning will presumably become much more sophisticated (and thus eliminate more jobs).
But there’s an argument that automation won’t have as big an impact on older workers, at least within the technology industry. The logic goes something like this: although jobs such as low-level coding and bug-hunting could end up handled by automated software, the positions generally held by older technologists—such as project manager or team leader—demand skills that machines simply don’t have, such as empathetic communication.
Indeed, older workers with complicated jobs could end up the human cog in a largely automated machine, which is either a relief (whew, my job is preserved!) or terrible (I’m all alone!) depending on how you look at it.
But older workers face some nearer-term challenges than automation. Chief among them: ageism. As this year’s Dice Diversity and Inclusion Survey pointed out, some 68 percent of Baby Boomers say they’re discouraged from applying for jobs due to age, and roughly 40 percent of Generation X’ers feel ageism is affecting their ability to earn a living. In addition, nearly a third of all respondents say they’ve “experienced or witnessed” ageism in their current workplace or most recent employer.
In the meantime, all tech professionals need to be prepared for the rise of automation over the next decade. Survival rests on polishing your soft skills, as well as staying educated in the latest technologies. That’s good advice no matter what your career stage.