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The research indicates that one in three jobs in South Africa (5.7 million jobs) is currently at risk of total automation.
The research indicates that one in three jobs in South Africa (5.7 million jobs) is currently at risk of total automation.

S. Africa Says Automation May Swipe 35% of Jobs

Reworking the Revolution research estimates that investing in AI and human-machine collaboration could collectively lift profits by $4.8 trillion globally

S. Africa Says Automation May Swipe 35% of Jobs

The impact of digital technologies on jobs and economies is an important topic for South Africa as new local research indicates that more than a third of jobs in this country may be automated.
An Accenture report, “Reworking the Revolution: Are you ready to compete as intelligent technology meets human ingenuity to create the future workforce?”, indicates that by investing in intelligent technologies and human-machine collaboration, businesses could boost revenues by 38% by 2022 and raise employment levels by 10%. ITonline reported.
The research indicates that one in three jobs in South Africa (5.7 million jobs) is currently at risk of total automation.
Reworking the Revolution research estimates that investing in AI and human-machine collaboration could collectively lift profits by $4.8 trillion globally. For the average S&P500 company, this equates to $7.5 billion of revenues and a $880 million lift to profitability. South Africa has much to gain.
Roze Phillips, MD of Accenture Consulting in Africa, says: “Digital is a growth multiplier. Digital technologies are ushering in a new economic era by overcoming the physical limitations of capital and labor, exposing new sources of value and growth, increasing efficiency and driving competitiveness.
"However, for countries like South Africa that are less prepared for human-machine collaboration, digital technologies may bring more job losses than gains.”
The 35% of jobs at risk of automation that Accenture’s research identifies is high compared with more digitally advanced countries such as Germany (24%), and second only to Brazil (46%) in this study. With a fragile economy and growing unemployment, especially youth unemployment, further job losses in South Africa could have a crippling effect.

Impact of Economy
Job losses will impact not just individuals and their families, they will impact the economy as well. “Workers are also customers,” Phillips explains. “Without an income, they have little to no purchasing power to drive demand for utilities and the products and services of government and the private sector. This can bring economic growth to a standstill. This makes creating jobs and ensuring technological competitiveness vital for South Africa.
“The challenge for businesses, and for South Africa, is to move from merely applying digital technologies to improve efficiencies—realizing the full promise of digital technologies and truly boosting economic growth depends on humans and machines working together to develop differentiated customer experiences, and create new products and services for new markets.”
Accenture’s research shows that at its current rate of learning, South Africa will shift to “running-with-the-machine” activities (those that require more human-like skills) slower than other developed countries.
To understand the risk, Accenture developed an econometric model using labor data from Statistics South Africa and identified the share of job activities in each category that can be automated.

Jobs at Risk
For South Africa, initial findings show that 35% of all jobs in South Africa are currently at risk of total automation, meaning machines can perform 75% of the activities that make up these jobs. Both blue and white-collar jobs are at risk.
The jobs of clerks, cashiers, tellers, construction-, mining- and maintenance workers all fall into this category. Hard-to-automate jobs (those with less than 25 risk of automation) include tasks like influencing people, teaching people and programming, real-time discussions, advising people, negotiating and cooperating with coworkers.
By 2025, jobs at risk in South Africa will reduce to 20% as workforces evolve with new digital demands across occupations.
There is good news, too. The research indicates that if South Africa can double the pace at which its workforce acquires skills relevant for human-machine collaboration, it can reduce the number of jobs at risk from 20% (3.5 million jobs) in 2025 to just 14% (2.5 million).
“South Africa cannot hesitate — it must start now. To succeed, leaders must act swiftly to re-imagine work, pivot the workforce and scale up ‘new skilling'”, says Phillips.
Accenture’s report, New Skills Now! Creating South Africa’s Future Workforce, identifies the new skills needed to unlock advantages in the digital economy, as well as the actions needed by South African leaders across business, government and industry to shape and prepare the workforce to 'run with the machine'.

 

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