How Automation Will Impact Job Pattern for Women

by June 3, 2020 0 comments


Artificial intelligence, robotics, and other modern technological changes are already affecting the number and quality of jobs. While automation is an area of vital interest for the present and future, it also raises a few questions of employment scope for the future. Until the 1960s and 1970s, robots used to perform what was assigned or asked of them. But today, AI allows them to assess their environment, adapt, learn, and carry out complex functions. However, despite the exponential leaps and bounds, the paranoia to displace humans in the workforce is real. What further shocks are that automation and robotics will steal more jobs from women than men in certain industries and countries. And studies have also pointed out that automation will change the employment patterns in the years to come.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), about 11% of jobs that are currently held by women are at risk of elimination as a result of AI and other digital technologies. Most of this is due to the bias programmed into the machine algorithms by male white-supremacists. The saying that Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus accurately speaks volumes of the gender stereotyping rampant in both socio-economic and technical culture to date.

This gender gap resulted due to the lack of data on women. Throughout history, there are instances of neglect in considering, studying, or celebrating the experiences, successes, and lives of women in every nation and everywhere. Consequently, this lesser data availability on women shaped today’s industries and acted as a training dataset for AI machines. Therefore this is what resulted in cumulative bias against women in talent management software that generated prejudiced results.

In a 2018 report by PwC, the first algorithm wave of automation has already begun. Under this, women could lose clerical, and service worker jobs as automation take on simple computational tasks, like cashiers and financial clerks, via self-checkout kiosks and data processing software. In March last year, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) also published a comprehensive study on how automation will affect US workers based on gender. The study found that women who make up 58% of workers at the highest risk of automation. Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) highlighted that this disparity in its report, i.e., on an average across 30 countries, 11% of the female labor force is at risk of losing jobs to automation, while only 9% of the male labor force is at risk.


Country-wise Disparity

Not only in clerical sectors, will industries which are typically dominated by women also go huge loss of jobs due to the entry of robots. According to McKinsey, countries like India, where so many women work in subsistence agriculture, there will be significant job displacements. Women in India alone will face losses in this occupational category by plunging by 28 percent, compared with 16 percent of jobs lost by men.

Meanwhile, in countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia where textile and garment production, or business process outsourcing (think telemarketing and customer support), make up a large part of the economy, according to a report by the International Labor Organization (ILO), women are at higher risks to lose their source of livelihood than men. Even in developed countries like the USA, UK, and Japan, women are more likely to face job losses than men. In Japan, the probability for automation displacement is 63% for women, out of which 57 percent accounts for service workers or administrative support staff roles.

Not only that women of color and queer women too are to bear the brunt of automation. Adding to their existing woes of discrimination and lack of opportunity woes.


Silver Lining

Like the two sides of the coin, automation will also increase jobs in fresher roles. While there is a chance that the demand for work and workers increases with growing economies when enabled by technological progress, there are sectors where automation cannot merely replace humans, especially women. According to an article posted in Industry Wired, roles that require, Communication, Context, Connection, Competence, Content, Choice, Common Sense, Creativity, Critical thinking, and Connectivity will continue to be held by humans. The McKinsey report states that women could gain 20 percent more jobs (i.e. 171 million) compared with present levels by 2030. Countries like China, Mexico, and South Africa women are forecast to see more opportunities than men in accommodation and food services relative to their overall share of employment and underrepresented in manufacturing and construction.

Furthermore, reskilling and training save help women recover their jobs in the future. For example, in Singapore and France, individual training accounts help workers save up for re-training and development programs. Brands like Unilever reported a 16% increase in the diversity of its hires after it adopted AI-based digital hiring.

Governments can also help women employment post automation by setting promotional quotas, offering social protection systems, provide flexible working hours, and so on. Besides, AI can be designed with a lesser biased and more neutral algorithm; AI can yield effective solutions for improving employee retention and advancement. In short, planned collaboration of the same modern technology can prove helpful in the war against automation job losses.

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