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Lack of time to retrain seen as risk to working women as automation spreads

by Ellen Wulfhorst | @EJWulfhorst | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 4 June 2019 14:00 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: An employee holds a spanner as she works at a coal-preparation plant, some 150 km (93 miles) south of the Siberian city of Kemerovo, Russia, July 23, 2012. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

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Between 40 mln to 160 mln women - or seven to 24% of those now employed - may need to shift occupations by 2030

By Ellen Wulfhorst

VANCOUVER, Canada, June 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Up to one-quarter of working women may need to move into higher-skilled jobs by 2030 due to the spread of automation and technology but many were at risk of not having time to retrain, according to a study released on Tuesday.

A study by McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of the U.S.-based management consulting firm, found men and women in 10 countries faced similar risks of being forced out of jobs in the next decade but also of taking advantage of job gains.

The report found between 40 million to 160 million women - or seven to 24% of those now employed - may need to shift occupations by 2030 but they would need new skills to do so as only jobs requiring degrees may experience growth in demand.

This put women at more risk than men as more worked in lower-paid occupations and "long-established barriers" made it harder for them to learn new skills, researchers said.

A glut of lower-wage jobs could put pressure on wages and force some women out of the labor market.

"At first glance, it looks like men and women are running the same race into the age of automation, but while the distance may be similar, women are running with a weight around each ankle," said Kweilin Ellingrud, a senior partner at McKinsey and co-author of the report.

Researchers found women have less time to learn new skills or search for employment because they spend more time than men on unpaid care, and they may be less mobile due to physical safety or social norms.

A 2018 report by the United Nations' International Labor Organization showed that women globally performed 76.2% of total hours of unpaid care work, more than three times as much as men.

Unpaid care work was cited as the main barrier preventing women from getting into, remaining and progressing in the labor force.

The McKinsey report, released at the Women Deliver conference in Canada, looked at six mature economies - Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Britain and the United States - and four emerging economies - China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit

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