The Fourth Industrial Revolution is under way and while it could lead to the loss of more than 7 million jobs over the next few years, it also should add jobs in the fields of computer science, math and engineering.
The global workforce is expected to go through "significant churn" in the next four years, according to a report from the World Economic Forum, a Geneva, Switzerland-based organization focused on analyzing and improving the state of the world.
"Developments in previously disjointed fields, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology are all building on and amplifying one another," the report noted. "Smart systems -- homes, factories, farms, grids or entire cities -- will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change."
Analysts expect the impact from many of these changes to arrive within the next five years.
That could include a net employment impact of more than 5.1 million jobs lost to changes in the labor market between 2015 and 2020, with a total loss of 7.1 million jobs when other job market factors are included. Two-thirds of those losses could come from the white-collar jobs.
It's not all bleak, though -- especially for those in tech fields.
The World Economic Forum predicts that, in the same time frame, the world workforce will gain 2 million jobs in fields related to computer science, engineering and mathematics.
Survey respondents from around the world largely pointed to data analysts as workers who will be in demand across a multitude of industries. Data analysts are expected help companies "make sense and derive insights from the torrent of data generated by technological disruptions," according to the report.
"This makes sense," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "As with the Industrial Revolution, there was job shrinkage in some areas and job additions. I think the same applies here, but we may call it the robotic revolution. We would say it's a good thing, even though some people will lose their jobs."
Echoing some previous reports, this recent survey notes that high-tech advances, like robotics and artificial intelligence, won't simply take jobs away but will change the types of jobs available.
"Technological disruptions such as robotics and machine learning, rather than completely replacing existing occupations and job categories, are likely to substitute specific tasks previously carried out as part of these jobs, freeing workers up to focus on new tasks and leading to rapidly changing core skill sets in these occupations," the report noted. "On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today, according to our respondents."
That makes sense to Moorhead.
"If you have sensors and wireless communications on your gas meters, you don't need as many people checking those gas meters," he explained. "But you need people to monitor the sensors and to design and develop the systems that do that."
In the technical field, the biggest drivers of change will be the cloud and mobility, followed by processing power and big data. New energy supplies will be followed by the Internet of Things, reported the World Economic Forum.
And technical skills alone won't be enough to get that great job. Survey respondents said they want people who also show sound social skills, like persuasion, emotional intelligence and the ability to teach others.
"[They] will be in higher demand across industries than narrow technical skills, such as programming or equipment operation and control," the report said. "In essence, technical skills will need to be supplemented with strong social and collaboration skills."
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