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Is technology putting your job at risk?

December 2016

December 15, 2016 | 11:15 | Dubai

Technology is here. And without an iota of doubt, the impact of technology felt today has been like never before. While it’s a boon in many a case, seen as a catalyst to comfort and ease, it’s threat as a disruptor does loom. It threatens to take your job. As the World Economic Forum outlined in a report earlier this year, Five million jobs in the world’s leading economies could disappear over the next five years because of advances in technology. They term this as the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’.

In their analysis, the biggest employment decline of any job family is expected in Office and Administrative roles, expected to be negatively affected by a perfect storm of technological trends that have the potential to make many of them redundant. Artificial intelligence and machine learning is expected to lead to negative employment outcomes in other job families including Education and Training, Legal and Business & Financial Operations.

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There is a consensus amongst experts: As developments in Artificial Intelligence advance, making computers not just fully capable in executing what they are explicitly outlined to do, the prospects of a computer making decisions, based on pattern detection is bound to move higher. Emolument.com, conducted a study involving 900 professionals across several industries and countries whether they believed their job was being threatened by technological improvements. The results showed that financial services professionals are feeling the heat the most, while those leading the technological disruption, i.e. engineers and computer science graduates, feel safe. Some of their key findings included:

  • Engineering & computer sciences graduates feel that being at the core of technological innovations protects them from being replaced by machines.
  • Those employees whose skills rely heavily on technological tools but are not involved in their creation or maintenance, i.e. economy and business graduates, clearly believe their jobs are highly at risk. Financial services workers are the most concerned about their jobs being at risk due to technological innovation.
  • Outsourcing is often seen as a stepping stone to automation. Indian employees, for one, are highly concerned and aware of this phenomenon with a majority thinking their job is at risk.

The GCC region too remains susceptible to this looming threat of technology. As the survey by WEF points out, technology is widely recognized as the major driver of change. The region has seen a focus on ‘digital transformation’ – PwC estimated recently that Middle Eastern industrial firms could generate USD 16.9 bn in extra revenue annually from 2017 to 2021 by embracing digital technology.

A further USD 17.3 bn of annual cost savings and efficiency gains was also forecast during the period. Accenture estimates digital skills and technologies could boost GDP in Saudi Arabia by 4.2% by 2020, or USD 31.4 bn. A similar increase in digital density could add USD 13.8 bn to UAE’s GDP and USD 7.8 bn to Qatar’s GDP by 2020. Artificial intelligence has seen investment in the UAE grow 70% in the last two years and the same run-rate is expected to be maintained in the coming years.

Traditionally, it has been highlighted as to how ‘there is a need for concerted action to keep technology a good servant and not let it become a dangerous master.’ However, as seen from the statistics outlined by these agencies, the threat of technology on one’s job is a potential reality in the coming years. It thus is the need of the hour for individuals to keep themselves abreast with the pace of technology in their respective fields and develop skill-sets accordingly. It is prudent to try and get hold of the horns rather than lock horns with the bull.

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