Many futurists and economists predict automation, robots, and artificial intelligence will take human jobs. It might not happen, of course, but if it does women will lose more jobs than men, a report has claimed. The World Economic Forum (WEF), which has its annual meeting in Davos this week, warned of a "widening of the employment gender gap" as the job market evolves.
The report says that by 2020, 2.45 millions jobs will be lost by women and 2.65 million will be lost by men -- as women make up a smaller percentage of the workforce the real term losses for women will be greater.
"It indicates widening gender gaps in the workforce, as women make up a smaller share of the overall labour force," the report says. This will mean that five jobs for women will be lost for every job gained. If current employment trends in new technology, computer and engineering roles continue "women are at risk of losing out on tomorrow’s best job opportunities," The Future of Jobs Report says.
The tech sector has long suffered from a gender imbalance: in 2014 one study showed the number of women in key roles had not improved in 10 years; the Women in Technology research report concluded new "initiatives and strategies" are needed, and research from the American Association of University Women said the number of women earning computing degrees has got worse.
The WEF research, which was created based on interviews with those working in HR departments around the world, did say that the majority of respondents (53 percent, a small majority) saw promoting women's participation as a 'key priority'. It also says that automation may help to narrow gender gaps.
"For example, household work, that is still primarily the responsibility of women in most societies, could be further automated, leaving women to put their skill sets to better use, including in the formal labour market," the report says.
The WEF researchers claim the world is "on the cusp" of a 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' due to the rapid advancements in everything from genetics and artificial intelligence to 3D printing and nanotechnologies. It's not the first time that it has been claimed a new industrial revolution is about to take place.
Researchers in Germany have also dubbed advancing manufacturing techniques, which involve smart automated factories producing goods, a fourth industrial revolution. The engineers predict "hundreds of thousands of computers" controlling the production of goods.
The pre-Davos report concludes that the future for workers may not be as bad as some predict, but says that staff need to develop new skills and talents to accompany technological advancements.
"Overall, there is a modestly positive outlook for employment across most industries, with jobs growth expected in several sectors," the authors write. "However, it is also clear that this need for more talent in certain job categories is accompanied by high skills instability across all job categories."