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Half of today's work activities could be automated by 2055: McKinsey

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-01-13 14:27

HONG KONG - About half of the activities people are paid to do in the global economy have the potential to be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technology by 2055, amounting to almost $12 trillion in wages, the McKinsey Global Institute said in a report newly released in Hong Kong.

The report, entitled "A future that works: automation, employment and productivity", analyzes the automation potential of the global economy, covering all sectors in over 50 countries.

At a time of lackluster productivity growth worldwide, automation technologies, including robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning can give a needed boost to economic growth, Joe Ngai, managing director of McKinsey's Hong Kong office said here on Thursday during a press meeting.

He expects automation could raise productivity growth globally by 0.8 percent to 1.4 percent, adding it will take decades for automation's effect to play out fully, making mass labor redeployment a priority for companies to think about, rather than mass unemployment.

At a global level, technically automatable activities touch the equivalent of 1.1 billion employees and $11.9 trillion in wages, with China and India accounting for the largest potential employment impact, according to the report.

The report also showed that activities most susceptible to automation are physical ones in highly structured and predictable environments, as well as data collection and processing, mostly reflected in manufacturing, accommodation and retail trade.

Ngai said the robots and computers can not only perform a range of routine physical work activities better and more cheaply than humans, but are also increasingly capable of accomplishing activities that include cognitive capabilities once considered too difficult to automate successfully, such as sensing emotion or driving.

If full or partial automation results in a significant reduction in employment or pressure on wages, some ideas such as negative income taxes, universal basic income, conditional transfers and adapted social safety nets could be considered by the governments, Ngai said.

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