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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

World Government Summit: Almost half of Middle East jobs could be automated says study

Advanced technology could displace 20.8 million employees, McKinsey & Company says

Robotics and other forms of automation technology could displace more than 20 million workers in six countries in the Middle East, says McKinsey & Company. Rick Wilking / Reuters
Robotics and other forms of automation technology could displace more than 20 million workers in six countries in the Middle East, says McKinsey & Company. Rick Wilking / Reuters

An estimated 45 per cent of existing jobs in the Middle East could be automated today, affecting more than 20 million full-time employees and $366.6 billion of wage income, according to a report highlighting the disruptive potential of technology to the region’s workforce.

“For countries such as the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait, the projected proportion of work, and by extension workers, displaced is higher than the projected global average [by 2030],” said Jan Peter Moore, associate partner at management consultancy McKinsey & Company, which published the report.

“This means workers in these countries will need to evolve to adapt to global forces of workforce automation and technological progress more rapidly than other countries in the region.”

The proportion of automatable jobs in the six Middle East countries studied in the report – the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia – could displace 20.8 million full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), Mckinsey & Co said.

Saudi Arabia and Oman have a slightly lower share of automatable current activities based on today’s technology, at 41 percent, while Egypt has a higher share of 48 percent.

The 45 per cent regional average is slightly below the global average of 50 percent, but higher than McKinsey & Company’s projected global average of 32 per cent.

Sectors intensive in routine tasks such as manufacturing, transportation and warehousing have a greater potential for automation using technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) than other sectors more dependent on human interaction and non-routine activities, such as healthcare, education, entertainment and recreation, the report added.

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However, the proportion of work actually displaced by 2030 will likely be lower due to technical, economic and social factors that affect adoption of technology.

“For the six countries in the sample, the projected adoption of technical automation based on these factors could be anywhere between 3 to 45 percent by 2030 – which for some countries like the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait is higher than the projected global average of 32 percent in the earliest scenario,” the report, unveiled at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Sunday, said.

Its findings suggest “massive economic value and opportunities”.

“Our research encourages Middle East policymakers and business leaders to embrace the transition into the new age of automation, and invest in skills that workers of the future will require,” Mr Moore said.

A separate report published on Sunday by professional services firm PwC said AI would contribute $320bn to total Middle East GDP by 2030 - equivalent to 11 per cent of GDP.