The CEO of BT thinks the global jobs market is on “the cusp of a radical transformation.”
Speaking at the second annual HSBC Innovation Summit in London on Friday, Gavin Patterson said: “It’s a combination of ubiquitous networks, ubiquitous data, ubiquitous processing capabilities, sensors in everything, augmented reality, virtual reality — the future looks very, very different.
“Frankly, it’s quite possible that 80% of the jobs that people do today won’t exist in the future. It’s not quite clear where we go from here.”
This is a big claim coming from a man whose company employees over 80,000 people. Stuart Gulliver, the CEO of HSBC, agreed with Patterson’s point. HSBC employees over 265,000 people globally.
Gulliver, who was on the panel with Patterson, said: “It’s unlikely that there will be the same number of jobs in today’s skill set in five years time.”
The World Economic Forum claims the world is on the cusp of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” caused by the rise of robots and artificial intelligence. WEF estimates that these technologies could potentially put 5 million people out of work by 2020.
A joint study by Citi and Oxford University earlier this year estimated that an incredible 77% of jobs in China could be at risk of automation, while the figure stands at 57% of jobs across the OECD. Foxconn, Walmart, and the US Department of Defence — 3 of the world’s top 10 employers — have also already begun replacing manufacturing, warehouse, and combat roles with robots.
But Gulliver added that the fact that certain jobs could be replaced by robotics and advanced computing would not necessarily mean that fewer people would be in work. He told the audience: “There may be new jobs that emerge and our responsibility is to manage that transition.”
Patterson told the audience that BT has a technology scouting network across Silicon Valley, London, Israel, and Berlin to keep the company abreast of the latest technological developments.
HSBC’s Gulliver said: “People of my kids’ age don’t expect to work 35 years for the same company in the same sector. Actually, again, you shouldn’t think about this in terms of how can offer someone a 35-year career when they’re aged 22 leaving university. That isn’t what the person aged 22 wants anyway.”
However, Patterson caveated his jobs predictions by saying: “One of the things about looking into the future is you can look one or two years in the future but looking ten in advance is really very hard.”
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