More than 1.4 million American workers are at risk of losing their jobs because of technology over the next decade, but with proper job training, their options for finding comparable or better jobs can increase fivefold.

That is the conclusion of a new report using Burning Glass Technologies data and methodology released at the World Economic Forum in Davos today. The WEF and Boston Consulting Group used Burning Glass jobs data and federal data to assess how many jobs are at risk of being disrupted by technology—and even more importantly, what pathways exist for displaced workers to move into new careers.

The report found that women are both at greater risk of job disruption, and have fewer good options to switch careers. Of the 1.4 million jobs at risk over the next 10 years, some 57% are filled by women.

The methodology is designed to assess what kinds of options a displaced worker might have, with and without retraining. This depends on the idea of “adjacent” jobs, or positions that have many skills that overlap with the jobs that may be lost. By assessing this, you can develop a sense of how close a match a new job is to a worker’s existing skills, what additional skills a worker needs to learn, and how many options for workers really have.

For 958 occupations in the United States, the report developed a “similarity score” that enabled analysis of how many practical alternative jobs a worker could have, based on the skills involved. Based on this analysis, a few workers would have lots of options, but a significant number will have none at all:

  • On average, workers have 10 transition options, or occupations that they could move to relatively easily.
  • But if forced to change jobs today, 16% of workers would have no opportunities to transition to a job with similar skills, and another 25% would have only between one and three matches.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, 2% of workers have more than 50 options. This group makes up a very small, fortunate minority: on average, all workers would have 10 transition options today.

With retraining, however, the number of options for the average worker expand nearly fivefold, with 48 “good fit” options.

In many cases, workers might even be better off. Many of these options would be jobs that pay more, and the WEF report estimated at-risk workers who retrain for an average of two years could receive an average annual salary increase of $15,000. And if there is no retraining? The report said that without coordinated retraining, one in four at-risk workers would see their annual income drop an average $8,600 per year—even if they find a new job.

The report was released at the Davos conference in Switzerland. You can find the full report here.

Davos report: Pathways into other jobs for office and administrative workers

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