Article

Occupations in transformation: who will be affected by technological change?

Aina Gallego, Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals

The growing automation of a large number of occupational tasks above all affects the lowest qualified employees, but also those with intermediate qualifications, such as those in administrative positions. The evidence available suggests that in Spain, many jobs will be affected. This risk is not evenly distributed throughout the population: the impact will be greater among workers with lower levels of education and those currently unemployed. Workers displaced by machines will find themselves forced to acquire new skills, but many may find this difficult and not all of them will achieve it.
Key points
  • 1
       Spain has a computerisation risk above 0.50. This means that around half of the tasks carried out today by humans today will be carried out by machines in a few years. This risk is not evenly distributed among the population nor among occupations.
  • 2
       The group at the greatest risk is that of administrative staff, who will be easier to substitute with technological capital. Finally, other characters such as workers in services and sales, operators and non-skilled workers present intermediate risk levels.
  • 3
       Over half of the tasks carried out in “technical” occupations could be carried out by machines in coming years. This group includes professions such as specialised operators, technical engineers or inspectors, who have intermediate training levels and carry out some routine tasks.
  • 4
       Management and “professional” occupations (with the latter category ranging from doctors to chemists, teachers or IT specialists) are those with the least risk of the typical tasks of these professions being carried out by machines.
Risk of computerisation
Risk of computerisation

Risk of computerisation is the probability that certain tasks currently undertaken by people will change to be carried out by machines (robots, computers, artificial intelligence, etc.). It affects men and women almost equally, but notable is the major difference due to education level. As shown by the graph, approximately 30% of the tasks carried out today by people with a university education are at risk, but the risk reaches almost 70% of people who have primary education. Also prominent are the differences by income level: the best paid professions presently are the most protected against the risk of being carried out by machines. With respect to the labour situation, those people who are unemployed or studying (after having worked) are in a more vulnerable position than those who are currently working.

Political involvement and risk of computerisation
  • Citizens whose jobs are at greater risk of automation are also less politically involved. Therefore, it is foreseeable that the political response to this situation will not heed their viewpoints.
  • Citizens who have not participated in any political act except voting at the elections have jobs with higher computerisation risks than the rest.
  • People with no interest in politics have a much greater risk.
  • Citizens to the right of the political spectrum have jobs with a lower risk of computerisation than the rest.
  • Citizens against income redistribution present lower computerisation risks than citizens who state they are in favour of redistribution. 

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