Robots could soon replace nearly a third of the U.S. workforce

By Danielle Paquette

Over the next 13 years, the rising tide of automation will force as many as 70 million workers in the United States to find another way to make money, a new study from the global consultancy McKinsey predicts.

That means nearly a third of the American workforce could face the need to pick up new skills or enter different fields in the near future, said the report’s co-author, Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute who studies business and economics.

“We believe that everyone will need to do retraining over time,” he said.

The shift could displace people at every stage of their career, Chui said.

By 2030, the researchers estimated, the demand for office support workers in the U.S. will drop by 20 percent. That includes secretaries, paralegals and anyone in charge of administrative tasks.

During the same period, the need for people doing “predictable physical work” — construction equipment installation and repair, dishwashing and food preparation, for example — will fall by 30 percent.

Other advanced economies, such as Germany and Japan, will see at least a third of their workforce similarly disrupted, the report concludes.

China’s share will be smaller (12 percent), since more employers there will still find it cheaper to employ humans.

Machines can increasingly perform tasks that people have long handled. They scan Tylenol and lip balm at the drugstore. They build pickup trucks. They take your grilled cheese order at Panera.

Technology could replace up to 375 million employees worldwide by 2030, the McKinsey authors estimate.

The jobs most at risk involve repetitive tasks. About half the duties workers handle globally could be automated, according to the report, though less than 5 percent of occupations could be entirely taken over by computers.

Caretakers, psychologists, artists, writers — anyone who relies on empathy or creativity at work — can expect to …read more

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