The spread of automation and technology will impact up to one-quarter of working women, and push them into higher-skilled jobs by 2030. According to the report by McKinsey Global Institute, a research arm of the US-based management consulting firm, seven to 24%, that is 40 million to 160 million women, would need new skills to do so as only jobs requiring degrees may experience growth in demand.
The study, based on six mature economies of France, Canada, Japan, Britain, Germany and the United States, shows that women are more at risk than men with the reason being that women work in lower-paid occupations and ‘long established barriers’ make it harder for them to grasp and learn new skills.
While acknowledging the importance and feasibility of automation, the study also points out other factors such as the cost of developing and deploying automation solutions for specific uses and the labor-market dynamics.
“The potential impact of automation on employment varies by occupation and sector. Activities most susceptible to automation include physical ones in predictable environments such as operating machinery and preparing fast food. Collecting and processing data are two other categories of activities that increasingly can be done better and faster with machines.”
The researchers explained that a glut of lower-wage jobs could put pressure on wages and force some women out of the labor market. A senior partner at McKinsey and co-author of the study, Kweilin Ellingrud said it seems that men and women are running on the same race into the age of automation, but women are running with a weight around each ankle. Ellingrud explained that women have less time to learn new skills or search for employment. “This is because they spend more time than men on unpaid care, and they may be less mobile due to physical safety or social norms.”
Moreover, a 2018 report by the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) revealed that women, globally, performed 76.2% of total hours of unpaid care work. This is more than three times as much as men.
The report cited ‘unpaid care work’ as the main barrier which prevents women from getting into, remaining and progressing in labor work.