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Technology, jobs, and the future of work

By James Manyika

Automation, digital platforms, and other innovations are changing the fundamental nature of work. Understanding these shifts can help policy makers, business leaders, and workers move forward, writes James Manyika in a briefing note prepared for the Fortune + Time Global Forum in Vatican City.

The world of work is in a state of flux. There is growing polarization of labor-market opportunities between high- and low-skill jobs, unemployment and underemployment (especially among young people), and stagnating incomes for a large share of households. Migration and its effects on jobs has become a sensitive political issue in many advanced economies. And from Manchester to Mumbai, public debate rages about the future of work and whether there will be enough jobs to gainfully employ everyone.

The development of automation, enabled by technologies including robotics and artificial intelligence, brings the promise of higher productivity, increased efficiencies, safety, and convenience. But it also raises difficult questions about the broader impact on jobs, skills, wages, and the nature of work itself. Many activities that workers carry out today could be automated. Job-matching sites such as LinkedIn and Monster are changing and expanding the ways individuals look for work and companies identify and recruit talent. Independent workers are increasingly choosing to offer their services on digital platforms such as Upwork, Uber, and Etsy; in the process, they are challenging conventional ideas about how and where work is undertaken.

For policy makers, business leaders, and workers themselves, these shifts create considerable uncertainty alongside the potential benefits. This briefing note aims to provide a fact base to stimulate discussion. It highlights recent findings from research by the McKinsey Global Institute and others on technology, jobs, and the future of work.

Download the full briefing note on which this article is based, Technology, jobs, and the future of work (PDF–144KB), prepared for the December 2016 Fortune Global Forum in Vatican City.

About the author(s)

James Manyika is a director of the McKinsey Global Institute.

The author wishes to thank Anu Madgavkar, Susan Lund, and Michael Chui for their contributions to this article.
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