Robots aren't taking our jobs; they're creating them – study

More employers than ever – some 87% – are planning to increase or maintain headcount as a result of automation for the third year running, research by ManpowerGroup has found.

In a statement on Friday, the global talent resourcing, consulting and career management group said rather than reducing employment opportunities, organisations are investing in digital solutions.

'Humans wanted'

For the 2019 research paper, titled Humans Wanted: Robots Need You, ManpowerGroup asked 19 000 employers in 44 countries about: the impact of automation on job growth in their organisations in the next two years; the functions they plan to increase headcount the most; the types of skills they are looking for; and the talent strategies they are implementing to prepare their workforce for the future.

The study found more employers than ever anticipate increasing or maintaining their workforce as a result of automation – up from 83% to 87% in three years. At the same time, the share of companies predicting job losses has fallen from 12% to 9%, ManpowerGroup said.

Results showed that 21-30% of SA and Guatemalan employers were planning to increase their headcount.

Only Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Norway, Slovakia and Romania predicted a decrease.

Importantly, ManpowerGroup said it was "difficult to teach human skills". These included tech and digital skills, as well as "soft" skills such as analytical thinking and communication.

More automation, more jobs

The study also found that companies that are automating the most are creating the most jobs.

"Companies that are innovating are growing, and that growth is producing more and new kinds of jobs," ManpowerGroup's statement said. "Those organisations that are already automating tasks and progressing in their digital transformations are also most confident of increasing headcounts."

Some 24% of those companies say they expect to create more jobs in the next two years.

Only 12% of those that are automating say they will reduce headcount, while 3% are not sure what the future holds.

'Skills revolution'

While companies are automating some tasks, they are also creating jobs. "Companies are scaling their up-skilling programs so that their human workforce can perform new and complementary roles to those done by machines.

"The skills revolution is in full flow," ManpowerGroup said.

Upskilling is also on the rise, the research found. Some 84% of organisations expect to be upskilling their workforce by 2020.

It's not 'humans vs. machines'

"As the employment and work environment continues to evolve, employers have an important role to play in terms of creating a culture of learning and working to build talent.

"Automation is changing the way that organisations operate," says ManpowerGroup South Africa's managing director, Lyndy van den Barselaar.

"Despite popular belief, the modern workforce does not have to be humans versus machines – however, it is important that employees are able to find a balance and collaborate with new technology to achieve the best possible outcomes," she added.  

The report additionally found that confidence in automation is growing globally.

Robots are helping to boost productivity and proving to be critical to economic growth, Manpower said. "Failure to invest in automation risks missing out on creating wealth and jobs."

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