The Twin Threats of Aging and Automation

This article is originally published by Mercer.

Societal aging and workplace automation are rapidly and fundamentally transforming the future of work.

At the convergence of these two trends sits a variety of risks and opportunities for employers. Older workers are facing significant displacement risks at the hands of emerging technologies, and are often overlooked as viable sources of renewed productivity. Employers would do well to redeploy the unique abilities of older workers as part and parcel of any digital transformation strategy.

Indeed, employers that don’t incorporate older workers into their workplace strategies run the risk of exacerbating unemployment and underemployment among this segment, contributing to social instability and missing a valuable opportunity to enhance productivity.

Mercer’s report, The Twin Threats of Aging and Automation, focuses on 15 major markets to examine and quantify the risks of rapid societal aging and of older workers’ susceptibility to automation. Key findings include:

  • Countries with higher rates of aging also face a higher risk of older-worker job automation.
  • Older-worker jobs in China and Vietnam are at the highest risk of being automated, with 76% of tasks done by older workers in China and 69% in Vietnam at risk of being replaced by intelligent technologies.
  • Canada and Australia have the lowest rates of aging and the lowest average older-worker automation risk scores (at 47% and 42%, respectively), making older-worker jobs in these countries the least susceptible to automation.
  • In Germany, older-worker jobs are on average 57% automatable.
  • In the US, older workers are doing jobs that are on average 52% automatable.
  • Key factors that help explain a higher risk of older-worker job automation include education levels, industrial structures, government expenditure and the strength of legal rights in financial systems.

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