Half of all paid jobs in the modern workforce are automatable, analyst says

Automation: The great threat to jobs?

Within the next few decades, half of all paid activities in the modern workforce could be automated, according to Michael Chui, a McKinsey Global Institute partner.

"In our research, we tried to lay out scenarios for how technology might evolve, how the price of automation might decline and what the potential results of that could be in terms of what might be automatable," Chui told CNBC's "Squawk Alley" on Tuesday. "Taking all of those factors into account, it will happen fast in micro to a person whose job is affected and a company whose sector is affected, and slow in macro."

Chui specifically outlined three activities that are more automatable than others.

"One of them is predictable physical activities, such as assembly lines, for instance, in manufacturing environments," Chui said. "Two other types of activities are collecting data and analyzing data. What's interesting about those are, is that it's easy to think about automation primarily affecting lower-wage and perhaps low-skilled front line workers. But what we found is that analyzing data is something that not only front line workers do, but in fact, a significant percentage of highly paid and highly skilled workers do as well."

A sector that falls primarily within the last two activities includes health care.

"You think about some of the stuff we pay people to do, it's everything from helping people into bed, to physicians," Chui said. "And for physicians, the highest-valued thing we think they can do is differential diagnosis: collecting a bunch of data and analyzing perhaps what the disease might be. That could be the thing that is most able to be automatable using artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning."

In the future, Chui said he believes every job will change in some degree due to automation technology, and he emphasized the need to adapt to a rapidly changing work landscape.

"What we found is that a significant percentage of everyone's job is automatable and everyone's job will change," Chui said. "That means it puts a premium on the ability to learn how to learn and the ability to flexible and resilient, because we're all going to have to change our jobs going forward. Over time we have to adapt while we adopt. And it's incredibly important that we start to adapt now."

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