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"No need to fear digitalisation," IZA/Xing survey finds

Results confirm views of far-reaching, but manageable transformation of working world

Only every eighth employee in Germany fears their job is threatened by automation, a survey entitled “Working in Germany/Arbeiten in Deutschland” by the Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA) and the Xing network for professionals published Thursday has found. Some 12.6 per cent of 1,272 employees aged between 25 und 54 years said their present jobs could be replaced by modern technology over the next five years. Some 2.3 per cent of 4,219 additionally surveyed XING members said such a scenario is likely. The study was conducted in early 2017 based on a national, representative online survey of over 3,000 interviewees and an online survey of randomly selected Xing members.

Lower share of endangered jobs

An ongoing debate about the “end of work” in view of widespread digitalisation has been fuelled by a study conducted by Oxford University (Frey and Osborne, 2013). Accordingly, every second job in the United States is at risk of automation. Based on the same calculation method, around 42 per cent of jobs in Germany could be replaced by robots and computers. However, when the job profiles of certain groups of professionals are taken into consideration and that cannot be similarly automated, the share of at-risk jobs drops to 12 per cent (Bonin et al., 2015).

Lower risk for modern knowledge workers

Around some 16 per cent of men rate the risk of automation higher than women (9.1 per cent), according to the survey. This discrepancy can be attributed to the fact that men frequently work in physically tiring jobs and where the use of machines is highest, according to researchers. Male and female members of Xing, who are likely to be modern knowledge workers, rate the risk of automation lower.

No disconcerting, scary scenarios

Only 5.8 per cent of those surveyed and who said they sought solutions to unforeseen disruptions to their work themselves, believe they are endangered by automation. Employees, who normally contact supervisors or colleagues in the event of disruptions, felt more threatened. Some 15.5 per cent i.e. 29.7 per cent of interviewees, said their jobs could be replaced by automation procedures.

Prof. Dr. Hilmar Schneider, Director of IZA, said: “Humanity has so far managed every technological change – from the loom to the internet – even though the impact was barely predictable. It is important to remain adaptable and that we seize opportunities instead of fearing risks.”

Duties of education and training systems

So far the number of declining and emerging jobs have held the balance. However, education and training systems have a duty to concentrate on teaching skills needed in future, said Schneider. Apart from professional qualifications, soft skills such as creativity, social intelligence, sense of responsibility and entrepreneurial thinking are also important.

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