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Home / Middle East could automate 20 million jobs, worth US$366 billion in wage income

Middle East could automate 20 million jobs, worth US$366 billion in wage income


An estimated 45 percent of existing jobs in the Middle East could be automated, according to McKinsey & Company’s latest report, The Future of Jobs in the Middle East, launched at the World Government Summit.

The potential for automation translates into massive economic value and opportunities across the region. In all six Middle Eastern countries examined, $366.6 billion in wage income and 20.8 million full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) are associated with activities that are already technically automatable today.

"Our research encourages Middle East policymakers and business leaders to embrace the transition into the new age of automation, and invest in skills that workers of the future will require,” says Jan Peter Moore, Associate Partner at McKinsey & Company.  “For countries such as the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait, the projected proportion of work, and by extension workers, displaced is higher than the projected global average. This means workers in these countries will need to evolve to adapt to global forces of workforce automation and technological progress more rapidly than other countries in the region.”

As the future of work materializes, policymakers have a window of opportunity to embrace AI and automation, equip workers with the rights skills that complement new automation technology, increase opportunities for new jobs from the implementation of technologies, take advantage of technological disruption to build new competitive advantage, and reinvest AI-driven productivity gains in strategic diversification initiatives across sectors.

Automation’s potential varies substantially across industries. Sectors like manufacturing, transportation and warehousing where routine tasks are common have a high potential for automation, whereas sectors where more human interaction is required, including the arts, entertainment, recreation, healthcare and education, have a lower potential to be automated – ranging from 29 to 37 percent. 

For policymakers and governments in the region, there is a critical link between displacement by automation and low-to-medium levels of education and experience. In a region where 57 percent of the current employed workforce has not completed a high school education, automation poses a real risk. The automation potential more than halves, falling to nearly 22 percent, for employees holding bachelor or graduate degrees.

For the UAE, and other dual labour markets in the Gulf, organising the future workforce and addressing segmentation will be vital. In the UAE, the research estimates that based on the segmentation of work activities by sector, occupation and education, more than 93 percent of the labor-saving technical automation potential applies to jobs currently held by expat workers. More than 60 percent of the automation potential is concentrated in six out of the 19 sectors examined; these include other services, administrative and support, government, manufacturing, construction, and retail trade as well as wholesale trade.

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