Automation does not destroy jobs. Employers do.

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Kai Gondlach

There are always statistics and forecasts about the destruction of jobs and/or the destruction of jobs. jobs as a result of the current wave of automation and artificial intelligence by the media. Please do not believe any of them. All nonsense. Fancy a little pinch of depth? Read my short opinion as a futurologist on the subject…

Thesis: Automation destroys jobs

That the currently effective 4. “Industrial revolution does something with the world of work,” I explained in the somewhat sprawling article on New Work. In this, I deliberately do not deal so much with the would-be forecasts of the relevant institutes and consulting firms. I would like to make up for this here, because of course the topic keeps popping up – most recently I was asked by Roche in Penzberg to name a “Top 10 of the replaceable jobs”. I think that is a great nonsense. But here are my personal top 10 predictions:

  1. Perhaps the most cited study on the subject dates back to 2013 and by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, and is the promising title “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation?”. Over 702 fields of application and fields of activity, the researchers calculated precise values for specific fields of application. It’s worth reading, but the numbers are… Well. Yes, I have also shown page 37 on occasion at keynotes – to point out how misleading statistics can be, especially when they relate to the future. After all, the study predicts that 47% of today’s u.S. activity is affected by at least 70% chance of automation.
  2. McKinsey caused a stir in 2018 with a study (heise reported) predicting a global wave of automation of “up to 800 million people” by 2030.
  3. The Centre for London, together with Ernst and Young (EY), predicted that by 2038 10-47 percent (excellent hit accuracy…) will be destroyed by automation and artificial intelligence in industrialized countries (“high-income countries”).
  4. At the end of March 2017, the financial market world predicted that germany would destroy 35% of jobs, with only the US at 38% above that figure; the basis of this information is a study by PwC.
  5. In April 2018, Die Welt published an OECD study that almost one in five workers in Germany could be replaced by robots and algorithms by automation – in 15 to 20 years. More precisely, it is 18.4%. I find it interesting from Online Marketing Insider that the URL is aimed at teenagers, although they were not necessarily the focus of the study, even if it is quoted as it.
  6. The same study study was focused differently by The Handelsblatt; “About half of all jobs in the 32 states that participated in the study” were estimated to have a very high threat potential.
  7. Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, predicted that five million jobs would be lost by 2020 alone “in the 15 most important industrialized and emerging economies” as a result of AI and demographic trends.
  8. A 2016 study by ING DiBa sees as many as 18 million jobs in Germany at risk – by 2026. This is more than a third of employment relationships subject to social security contributions. According to a Focus report on the study, northern Germany is hitting particularly hard – but thanks to sea level rise in a few decades, this will no longer be in the form of today anyway.
  9. Better still, a study by the US (WEF) may “eliminate 72 million jobs worldwide by 2022, or will be lost. replaced by machines” (
  10. After all, ChannelPartner is making a top 7 of the jobs destroyed – as early as 2019.
  11. … and all consulting firms such as Deloitte, BCG, and KPMG had similar predictions in the top 10 of Google searches before they flipped and their forecasts suddenly became out of date.

Do you notice what? These are all media that argue more popularly. We need more prudence in this debate. Because, as the it matchmaker portal (certainly not entirely independent of interest) neatly summarizes, these myths hinder our way to live and work in harmony with artificial intelligence. But this is a different issue.

Industrialization sends greetings: executives beware!

It almost seems as if the history teacher had in the 9th century. Keeping class right: History repeats itself. I vehemently disagree (hello, Lutz W.!).

The current situation has to be assessed differently for various reasons, which I would like to shorten here. After careful consideration, I conclude that the debate on artificial intelligence is completely misguided in the context of what may be the fourth industrial revolution. It will (among other things) politically) fear to keep investment in innovation low until it is definitely needed – after all, the decision-makers of the largest companies, all over 50 years old, are looking above all at the return and positive Stock market results. It is just bad when en masse employees are automated, especially since robots and software developers can be quite expensive. (Attention, this is not an attack on Ü50 managers – there are also many positive examples, be you one of these!)

Of course, it is time for panic again. Yes, many professions are threatened with extinction; this is the obvious parallel to the last industrial revolutions. Applause to the top 10 up there. What is historically new is that we live in some liberal, pluralist democracies in the comfortable situation that entire sectors cannot easily be “rationalized”. This is politically inaccessible. Instead, employers have begun to think seriously about how they can continue to employ their workforce in the future. There are also studies on this: the current wave of automation is also creating tens of thousands of new fields of activity.

To avoid a list that is far too long, I hereby write a loose bet: I bet that new tasks will also arise in your environment, while various can be automated.

Of course, there are various fields of activity that can be automated today and in the future. Simple clerk jobs, all drivers, simple manual activities are part of this. What is new is that expert professions are also affected. And yet I am convinced that in a pluralist democracy such as Germany, with strong trade unions and works councils, there can be no sudden wave of redundancies – at least not among the big employers such as Volkswagen, Edeka or the Germans. Railway; I am more concerned about their suppliers, especially in the automotive industry and trade.

On the contrary, I see it as a duty for managers to think very specifically about the areas of activity and qualification profiles of their future posts (aka employees) in order to gradually develop today’s ones. On the other hand, they also simply need to automate, as their most valuable (even monetary) resource is sifted: the labor shortage leaves them no choice. In this way, technological innovation and labour market evolution are mutually inspired. Ultimately, more and more companies of all industries and sizes dare to try out elements of New Work and to break away from traditional patterns, processes and hierarchies.

Conclusion: Focus on workers

Autonomous vehicles, robots, AI algorithms can do much better than humans. A lot of things aren’t. Let us not end up on the side of carbon chauvinists or silicon fascists and fight this evolutionary step. Instead, I call for this revolution to be seen as an opportunity to free us and all employees from simple, repetitive work! There are so many creative ways to guide each individual through this transition with the appropriate (continued) education.

In line with the Long-Hinted New Work Philosophy, it is time to put the employees at the center of their work. This includes courage on both sides of the employment relationship – and open communication about this surely not easy transition.

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