Arabs, women most threatened by automation

Factory workers / Photo: Shutterstock

A Taub Center study finds that job losses to automation are liable to widen existing social gaps.

One of the most important questions about the labor market is the effect of automation on the various professions, and how to prepare for it. A new study by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel examines the effect of automation in Israel, and finds that 15% of all jobs are at high risk of being eliminated by computerization, 54% are medium risk, and 31% are low risk. These figures are a little better than the OECD average. The position of non-haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish males is better than the OECD average, and those who should be most concerned are Arab men, and women above the age of 40 - whose position is only slightly better than the OECD average.

Levels of risk stem from the nature of the work. In construction and industry, risk levels are higher, while in education and defense risks are lower because of the need for creativity and the ability to solve complex problems. Researcher Shavit Madhala, who authored the chapter entitled "The Risk of Automation in the Israeli Labor Market" in the Taub Center's "State of the Nation Report 2019", states there that the main characteristic of jobs at risk to automation is that they do not require higher education, and many of them require no formal education at all. Among people employed in jobs requiring higher education, 27% are at high risk, whereas for those employed in jobs not requiring formal education the figure is 45%. Low hourly wages and less than full-time work hours are further characteristics of vulnerable jobs.

The study also examined the frequency with which certain skills will be required in the labor market of the future, among them solving complex problems, planning for others, teaching and training others, consultation and persuasion. The results, based on the OECDs PIAAC (Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies), show that non-haredi Jewish men make the most frequent use of these skills. Among those who make the least frequent use of them are Arab men and women. Frequency of use is higher among those in the 36-54 age range, followed by those aged 25-35.

Since the risk of losing jobs to automation is high among low-earning groups, there is a real fear that social-economic gaps will widen. It is expected that new jobs will replace the ones that disappear, but the fear is that those who lose their jobs will find it hard to acquire suitable qualifications.

"About one-half of Arab Israeli men are employed in manufacturing, construction, and the operation of factories and machines. These industries are characterized by a high share of jobs that are at risk of automation and a low educational threshold. A relatively low share of the Arab Israeli workers are employed in academic (professionals) or managerial positions which are characterized by lower risk," the study states. Furthermore, the proportion of employees who use computers in their work is 77% among non-haredi Jews, 58% among haredim, and 43% among Arabs.

Madhala also finds that "women, and in particular prime working-age Jewish women, face a higher risk of automation in their jobs than do men." She also notes that "In the occupational distribution of non-Haredi women and men, the men have higher rates of employment in occupations characterized by high risk levels. This is consistent with regression results showing that gaps among groups are primarily the result of differences in skills (skills that are required in the future labor market) and not necessarily in the choice of occupation itself."

The higher the level of education, the lower the risk posed by automation. A high-school education reduces the risk of computerization by five percentage points in comparison with a lower level of education, while higher education reduces the risk by fifteen percentage points. Women, especially non-haredi Jewish women, are at higher risk than men, indicating that women tend to use fewer skills required for the future labor market than men in the same professions.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 30, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

Factory workers / Photo: Shutterstock
Factory workers / Photo: Shutterstock
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