Traditionally male-orientated jobs are most likely to be impacted by advances in technology, according to a leading academic.
As further advances in robots or artificial intelligence (AI) are developed, Professor Brian Fitzgerald, director of Lero, the SFI Irish Software Research Centre, told the Irish Independent that jobs that involve “mundane” tasks will be most affected.
“The jobs most at risk are male-orientated. Jobs that are more female-orientated such as creative and social roles are least at risk, which could create a counter-gender balance,” he said.
In addition, he said that a lot of “hazardous tasks such as bomb disposal, and waste clearance” could see people replaced by machines.
Today, as many as two in four Irish adults are concerned that robots or AI will take over their job.
This figure rises to one in two adults aged between 18 and 34, according to a survey for Lero by RED C Research.
“This is not an unfounded fear,” Professor Fitzgerald, said.
“People are not stupid and have observed how artificial intelligence and machines have replaced bank staff and supermarket checkout operators.”
Of those worried about their jobs being taken over, one in ten believe that this will occur within the next five years, while a quarter of adults expect it to happen within the next six to 10 years.
However, Prof Fitzgerald said that technology will also create jobs, referring to a recent survey by global consulting firm KPMG, which found that 96pc of Irish CEOs believe that artificial intelligence will create more jobs than it destroys.
“The big challenge for Irish education is to prepare young people to develop the skills and retrain existing workers for jobs of the future,” Prof Fitzgerald added. “This is particularly challenging as in many cases we don’t know today what these jobs will be.”
“In every industrial revolution, people predicted that it would be a disaster for mankind, but that is not the case,” he added.
While many have concerns over robots replacing their jobs, the study finds that the Irish are divided on whether robotics will safely replace drivers over the next 15 years. Just under half of the 1,038 adults surveyed believe that self-driving cars will be safer, but a similar number believe that software-controlled vehicles will be less safe.
The study also asked adults about the frequency in which they work from home, with a quarter saying that this happens at least occasionally.
This rises to over a third amongst those aged 25-34.
“Home working is likely to increase because of the high cost of housing, especially in the main cities and resulting long commutes for many,” Prof Fitzgerald said.
He added that it was “no coincidence” that working from home is above the national average amongst rest of Leinster residents.
“At a time of rising labour shortages, it may well be that employers who can offer the facility to work from home at least occasionally will be better able to attract employees.
“Software is a core enabler of this better work-life balance.”
“A lot of tech companies have people distributed across multiple countries, and collaboration between staff works extremely well,” he added.
In terms of the implications for people who may not be technically savvy, Prof Fitzgerald said that when the technology is useful enough people learn it.
“[Technology advances] will affect everyone, but people are very resilient.”
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