Based on a European application of Frey & Osborne (2013)’s data on the probability of job automation across occupations, the proportion of the EU work force predicted to be impacted significantly by advances in technology over the coming decades ranges from the mid-40% range (similar to the US) up to well over 60%.
Source: Bruegel calculations based on Frey & Osborne (2013), ILO, EU Labour Force Survey
Those authors expect that key technological advances – particular in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and mobile robotics – will impact primarily upon low-wage, low-skill sectors traditionally immune from automation. As such, based on our application it is unsurprising that wealthy, northern EU countries are projected to be less affected than their peripheral neighbours.
But irrespective of geography these impacts will be substantial, averaging 54% across EU-28. In spite of several caveats we note in another more detailed blog post, the presently second-order issue of labour allocation in the face of technological change is likely to become a key policy concern in the coming years. What these estimates imply for policy is clear: if we believe that technology will be able to overcome traditional hurdles among non-routine cognitive tasks then we must equip the next generation of workers with skills that benefit from technology rather than being threatened by it. Such skills are likely to emphasise social and creative intelligence, which suggests that appropriate shifts in education policy are surely requisite in order to meet this automated challenge.