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McKinsey for Kids: I, Robot? What technology shifts mean for tomorrow’s jobs

Originally published on McKinsey on August 23, 2021

Tomorrow’s jobs will look different from today’s—and not just because you might be working alongside robots. In this edition of McKinsey for Kids, peer into the future of work and what it may hold for you, whether you’re thinking about becoming a doctor, an influencer—or a garbage designer.

 

What’s your dream job?

Maybe you’ve wanted to be a doctor since you toddled around with a plastic stethoscope. But if you’re like many young people, you’re probably not so sure what your dream job is.

It’s something worth figuring out, since so much time is spent working. By some estimates, one-third of your life will be spent on the job. And some of the stuff you’re interested in now could be preparing you for what’s ahead. Check out six possible jobs of the future—you might be surprised to find you’re already developing some skills that’ll make you a good fit.

 

 

How do new peers into the future?

You may work side by side with robots in the future—but in all likelihood, they’ll handle the parts of the job that are physically demanding or routine. Technological help can take care of the less interesting parts of work; if you work in mining, you might work from the safety of a digitized control room while directing a robot to do the actual digging. That also gives you more time and space to do things that are more creative or to make bigger strategic decisions informed by data.

Technology that helps people do their work better isn’t new. But the latest wave of innovations is significant. And our research shows that trends like remote work, e-commerce, and continuing automation could mean more than 100 million workers might need to find a different occupation by 2030—that’s roughly the same as the populations of Canada and Italy combined.

In China, an aging population and rising incomes mean healthcare workers and high-quality service jobs will be in demand—the medical-care arena could see a jump in demand of 121 percent through 2030. Automation could have a big effect on agriculture, manufacturing, and production.

In the United States, customer-service and food-service jobs could fall by 4.3 million by 2030. But demand for workers in healthcare and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs could see big growth.

Lots of people in Germany operate machines or work in production jobs, and automation will have a big impact on this kind of work. But because the country’s workforce overall is shrinking, in the long term, there will probably be too few workers, not too few jobs.

India faces the biggest long-term changes of any labor market we studied. While jobs in agriculture may drop, the country could add millions of good-paying jobs in everything from education to healthcare to transportation as its population swells.

 

What skills will be in demand in the future?

We asked hundreds of workers and leaders about the skills they are prioritizing, and there’s been a notable rise in people saying that social and emotional skills—plus advanced cognitive skills (including critical-thinking, decision-making, and statistical skills)—are at the top of their list. And that can be good for you: say you want to move into healthcare after working at a bank for a few years. In the past, that might have been seen as a real leap. But if the skills most valued for bank staff of the future are more about crucial social and emotional skills, because the software has automated away some of the more rote analytics that used to be involved, you might be able to shift to a new line of work, even without going back to school.

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