Man and Machine: Robots on the rise?
New Deloitte report on the impact of automation on the Swiss job market
Zurich, 9 November 2015
The emergence of the fourth industrial revolution has fuelled the debate on the effects of technological progress on jobs. In its latest report, Deloitte – in collaboration with Swiss Radio and Television’s business programme ECO – has analysed the impact of automation of the Swiss job market and examined which professions are at risk of being automated. One key result: Almost half of current jobs could in principle be replaced by a machine. However, in the past 25 years, more jobs in total have been created than lost – not least thanks to automation. In the future, it is thus of upmost importance to seize the opportunities that automation presents.
The impact of automation on the workforce is clearly visible in Switzerland: Jobs with a low probability of being replaced by automation have grown significantly over the last 25 years, while jobs with a high probability have grown less vigorously or have even decreased1. As a whole, more jobs – to be exact: 2.6 times more jobs – have been created in the past 25 years than have been lost, not least due to automation.
The probability of a job being automated decreases the higher the level of education. That means: the more qualified the employee, the more improbable it is that they could be replaced by a machine. Management, academic and technical jobs have registered the largest growth in the past 25 years – all categories that have a low risk of being automated. These jobs include lawyers, doctors and psychologists. Conversely, mostly jobs with a relatively high risk of automation have been lost. These include many categories requiring a low to average level of education such as secretarial, bank and information clerk jobs.
However, this correlation is not absolute for the Swiss job market. There are also jobs requiring a low to average level of education that have a low probability of automation (e.g. medical assistants, childminders), just as there are professions requiring a high level of education that have a high probability of automation (e.g. accountants, financial advisers).
ʺEmployees of all qualification levels can benefit from the opportunities automation has to offer,ʺ explains Bjornar Jensen, Partner and Innovation Lead at Deloitte in Switzerland. ʺThis especially goes for professions focusing on creativity, social interaction and a high level of customer service.ʺ
1The probability of automation indicates how well a job could be replaced by machines given the necessary tasks involved.
Almost half of current jobs at risk
Deloitte’s analysis also shows that 48% of current jobs could be rendered obsolete by automation. Administrative and secretarial professions (94%), agricultural and production jobs (73% and 66%), as well as office work requiring a low to average level of education (71%) are the ones with the highest probability of automation.
There have been job losses in these categories in the past, not least due to widespread use of computers, but to a lower degree in the services area than in manufacturing. Newer developments such as automated software, which can handle administrative procedures autonomously, are leading to repetitive, standardisable processes in the services area being taken over by machines to a greater degree.
Bjornar Jensen puts this finding in perspective: ʺJobs with a high probability of automation can also benefit from current developments. They have to look to create added-value, for example through delivering extraordinary customer service. Also, we – employees and employers alike – have to increasingly work towards using technology to complement services delivered by humans. We have to get the best out of both man and machine. ʺ
In wealth management for example, relationship managers should focus on advising customers and implementing individual customers’ demands, while background processes, transaction processing, compiling reports and similar tasks could be completely automated.
Automation as future opportunity, and not risk
In the last 25 years, more jobs have been created than lost – not least due to automation, as the analysis shows. Bjornar Jensen concludes: ʺWhy shouldn’t this positive employment trend of the last decades continue? In the future, we have to seize the opportunities that technological progress offers us. Switzerland is in an excellent position to benefit from automation due to its good education system and advanced technological base. However, we have to be very aware of the fact that all stakeholders – employers, the state, education institutes as well as employees – have to play an active role.ʺ
About Deloitte’s report Man and Machine: Robots on the rise?
Deloitte explored the impact of automation on the Swiss job market. The analysis is primarily based on two sources: Firstly, on Frey and Osborne (2013), which estimated the probability of automation for 702 of 840 jobs according to the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) in a comprehensive study. Secondly, from employment data (SLFS) from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) from 1990 and 2013 (last available year). Since Switzerland uses a different job classification, the International Standard Classification of Occupation (ISCO-08), the probabilities are redivided based on the official conversion table. Deloitte’s analysis covers about 90% of employment between 1990 and 2013.
The full report Man and Machine: Robots on the rise?, which was realized on behalf of Swiss Radio and Television’s (SRF) business programme ECO, is available on our website (including examples of job categories with varying probabilities of automation).
About Deloitte in Switzerland
Deloitte is a leading accounting and consulting company in Switzerland and provides industry-specific services in the areas of audit, tax, consulting and financial advisory. With more than 1,400 employees at six locations in Basel, Berne, Geneva, Lausanne, Lugano and Zurich (headquarters), Deloitte serves companies and institutions of all legal forms and sizes in all industry sectors. Deloitte AG is a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP, the UK member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL). DTTL member firms comprise of over 225,000 employees in more than 150 countries.
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