An estimated 45 percent of existing jobs in the Middle East could be automated, according to McKinsey & Company’s latest report, The Future of Jobs in the Middle East, launched today at the World Government Summit.
The potential for automation translates into massive economic value and opportunities across the region, according to the firm.
In the UAE, the research estimates that based on the segmentation of work activities by sector, occupation and education, more than 93 percent of the labour-saving technical automation potential applies to jobs currently held by expat workers.
More than 60 percent of the automation potential is concentrated in six out of the 19 sectors examined; these include other services, administrative and support, government, manufacturing, construction, and retail trade as well as wholesale trade.
In all six Middle Eastern countries that the report examined, $366.6 billion in wage income and 20.8 million full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) are associated with activities that are already technically automatable today.
“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,” said Jan Peter Moore, associate partner at McKinsey & Company. “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. 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.”
Automation’s potential varies substantially across industries. Sectors like manufacturing, transportation and warehousing where routine tasks are common have a high potential for automation, whereas sectors where more human interaction is required, including the arts, entertainment, recreation, healthcare and education, have a lower potential to be automated – ranging from 29 to 37 percent.
For policymakers and governments in the region, there is a critical link between displacement by automation and low-to-medium levels of education and experience.
In a region where “57 percent” of the current employed workforce has not completed a high school education, automation poses a real risk, McKinsey & Company says. The automation potential more than halves, falling to nearly 22 percent, for employees holding bachelor or graduate degrees.