Putting faces to jobs at risk of automation

The OECD recently released a policy brief on the future of work. The brief states that artificial intelligence and mainstream robots are rapidly increasing their range of activities and the tasks they are able to do. Consequently, the most affected sectors are manufacturing and agriculture, usually for low-skilled labour with low added value. However, not only routine tasks are at stake as robots improve their performance in their cognitive, social and creative abilities. Automation will globally increase productivity but the extent of it will largely depend on the investment of policy, institutions and the rate of innovation diffusion.

  • 14% of jobs in OECD countries are at risk of automation.
  • 32% of jobs may experience significant changes to how they are carried out, i.e. adapt to new tasks and job content. How can we, as a society, adapt and help workers transition to these changes?

The training challenge

First, adult learning systems need to be improved and mainstreamed. Second, the risk of automation and the offer of job-related training are not distributed equally across countries and socio-demographic groups. As the low-skilled labour market is most affected by automation, it is clear that countries where these sectors are prominent, the risk of high unemployment rates is higher.

The OECD recommends the following:

  • Education systems need to acknowledge the technological change and adapt to the digital context in extending the skills necessary to function in an automated society. More particularly, skills such as cognitive and social intelligence will be of upmost importance.
  • Effective and well-targeted adult learning should be promoted as a key policy tool for those workers already in the workforce, with the goal of adaptation or reorientation
  • Good practices and jobs with a smaller proportion of routine tasks should be promoted.


  • Read the complete OECD policy brief on the future of work here.