Twelve million jobs to be lost to automation in Europe by 2040

Millions of current jobs in Europe will be carried out by robots as software robots automate processes

About 12 million jobs will be automated by 2040, with jobs that consist of simple, routine tasks the most at risk of being replaced by software robots.

According to Forrester, the impact on the jobs market will be lessened because Europe’s biggest economies will have millions fewer people of working age. Meanwhile, it said the automation industry itself and the green energy revolution would create nine million jobs in Europe’s five biggest economies.

In its Job Forecast 2020-2040, which analysed France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, Forrester found that the retail, food services, and leisure and hospitality sectors would see the most automation. 

Forrester said the Covid-19 pandemic had put pressure on organisations to automate. “Lost productivity due to Covid-19 is forcing companies globally to automate manual processes and improve remote work,” said Forrester analyst Michael O’Grady. “The pandemic is just one factor that will shape the future of work in Europe over the next two decades, however.”

He added that European organisations were also in a strong position to embrace automation because of the region’s declining working-age population and the high number of routine low-skilled jobs that can be easily automated. Automation will subsequently become integral to how European governments and employers look at their competitiveness and manage their older demographic.”

Forrester’s report predicts that Europe’s five biggest economies will have 30 million fewer people of working age in 2040 than in 2020.

Mid-skilled jobs will see the biggest automation rates. They make up 38% of the workforce in Germany, 34% of the workforce in France, and 31% of the workforce in the UK. Forrester said 49 million jobs in Europe were at risk from automation.

“Automation is about augmenting people, not necessarily replacing them. It makes people more productive and allows them to focus on the things they are good at, using their empathy, knowledge and understanding”
Chris Lamberton, TrustPortal

“As a result, European organisations will invest in low-carbon jobs and build employees’ skills. Soft skills such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility – something robots aren’t known for – will complement worker automation tasks and become more desirable,” said Forrester.

While mid-skill labour jobs that consist of simple, routine tasks are most at risk from automation, countries including France, Germany, Italy and Spain, where industry, construction and agriculture make up large shares of economies, are investing in industrial automation to increase productivity. The automation industry is creating jobs, with companies being created to support the take-up of automation within enterprises.

Chris Lamberton, CEO at automation software supplier TrustPortal, who previously ran EY’s automation practice, said he was not seeing a large number of people being replaced by software robots.

“Automation is about augmenting people, not necessarily replacing them. It makes people more productive and allows them to focus on the things they are good at, using their empathy, knowledge and understanding,” he said.

“I am a sceptic of the huge numbers being quoted about jobs being replaced. I have worked in the robotic process automation industry for 10 years and I don’t see a huge number of businesses reducing staff through automation. What I do see is organisations moving people into other types of roles.”

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