IMF: 180 Million Jobs for Women at High Risk Globally due to Automation

A disproportionately large share of the female workforce is at risk of job displacement due to automation as women are underrepresented in managerial and professional positions.

Washington: As many as 180 million jobs for women are at high risk of being displaced globally due to new technologies like automation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned on Tuesday.

The global financial institution urged world leadership to endow women with requisite skills, close the gender gap in leadership positions, bridge the digital divide and ease transition for workers.

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In a note released during the annual IMF and the World Bank meetings in Bali, the world body said that the figures of massive potential job loss for women is based on its estimate of 30 countries, which includes 28 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and Cyprus and Singapore.

It also ruled that the new technologies could further drive down demand and reduce relative wages for the routine tasks that women perform, lowering returns from labour market participation.

The IMF said its results indicate that, given the current state of technology, 10% of the male and female workforce (54 million workers) in 30 countries (28 OECD member countries, Cyprus, and Singapore) is at a high risk (facing higher than 70% likelihood of being automated) of being displaced by technology within the next two decades.

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A larger proportion of the female workforce is at high risk for automation than the male workforce (11% versus 9%), with 26 million female jobs potentially at stake in these countries.

Less well-educated and older female workers (aged 40 and older), and those in clerical, service, and sales positions are disproportionately exposed to automation.

“Extrapolating our results, we find that 180 million female jobs are at high risk of being displaced by automation globally,” the IMF said.

In its discussion note, the IMF rued that women are under-represented in sectors anticipating jobs growth, where technological changes can be complementary to human skills.

As such it called for endowing women with requisite skills, closing the gender gap in leadership positions, bridging the digital divide and easing the transition for workers.

Women, it said, appear less endowed with some of the skills needed to thrive in the digital era: they are currently under-represented in sectors anticipating jobs growth, such as engineering and Information and Communications Technology. At the same time, there are some bright spots, it noted.

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Jobs are likely to grow in traditionally female-dominated sectors such as health, education, and social services, jobs requiring cognitive and interpersonal skills and thus less prone to automation.

However, across sectors and occupations, under-representation of women in professional and managerial positions leaves them at greater risk for displacement, the IMF said.

Observing that the depth and speed of future technological advancement and technology diffusion across countries as well as their impact on jobs is largely unknown, the note said that as such, its estimates and extrapolation should be interpreted with caution.

“Second, jobs at risk of automation is not the same thing as actual job loss. Our estimates of potential impacts of automation consider only technical feasibility given the current state of technology. Job losses could potentially be offset by new work opportunities created by technology and higher output potential owing to falling costs and prices,” it said.

According to the IMF, the Routine Task Intensity index, on average, is 13 per cent higher for female workers across its sample of 30 countries: a result that is statistically significant.

Female workers perform fewer tasks requiring analytical and interpersonal skills or physical labour, and more tasks that are routine, characterised by lack of job flexibility, little learning on the job, and greater repetitiveness.

“This implies that women are more exposed to automation than men,” the IMF added.