Digital change and automation are driving enormous productivity gains in the world of work. Preparing for change can mean that individuals, businesses and nations can enjoy the benefits of automation.

Small Business Prices has analysed a variety of metrics to find the countries most ready for the future due to their use of automation, and which jobs are most at risk.

Telemarketing most at risk of seeing jobs lost to automation

Rank Occupations most at risk of automation Probability of being automated
1 Telemarketers 0.99
2 Title Examiners, Abstractors, and Searchers  0.99
3 Sewers, Hand 0.99
4 Mathematical Technicians 0.99
5 Insurance Underwriters 0.99
6 Watch repairers 0.99
7 Cargo and freight agents 0.99
8 Tax preparers 0.99
9 Photographic process workers and processing machine operators 0.99
10 New accounts clerks 0.99
11 Library Technicians 0.99
12 Data Entry Keyers 0.99
13 Timing Device Assemblers and Adjusters 0.98
14 Insurance Claims and Policy Processing Clerks 0.98
15 Brokerage Clerks 0.98

Many of the industries that are most at risk of seeing jobs being taken over by robotics have over time evolved to an automated process and fall into categories such as administrative tasks and manual labour.  

Out of 702 jobs analysed the occupation that ranks the highest for chances of being replaced by automation is telemarketing. This is followed by Title Examiners, Abstractors, and Searchers – roles that involve mainly clerical tasks – in second place and Hand-Sewers come in as the third most likely to see their job be replaced by automated technology.

Recreational therapists are least likely to lose jobs to automation

Rank Occupations-Least-at-risk-of-automation Probability
1 Recreational therapists 0.0028
2 First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers 0.0030
3 Emergency management directors 0.0030
4 Mental health and substance abuse social workers 0.0031
5 Audiologists 0.0033
6 Occupational therapists 0.0035
7 Orthotists and prosthetics 0.0035
8 Healthcare social workers 0.0036
9 Oral and maxillofacial surgeons 0.0036
10 First-line supervisors of fire fighting and prevention workers 0.0039
11 Dietitians and Nutritionists 0.0039
12 Lodging Managers 0.0040
13 Choreographers 0.0041
14 Sales Engineers 0.0042
15 Physicians and Surgeons 0.0042

According to analysts, there are three aspects to jobs that ensure they are less likely to be affected by the increase of modern technology; those roles that involve genuine creativity, jobs that involve building complex relationships with humans and careers that have a high sense of unpredictability.

Our study determines that the job that’s the least likely to be replaced by tech is that of a Recreational Therapist; this is a role that involves the human aspect and complex relationship building which requires emotional skills robots are (not yet) capable of.

The jobs that are second least likely to become fully automated are First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers, due to the role being highly unpredictable; one will never know when and where an expert in this field will be needed and problems are often nuanced, hence the need for human touch.

Emergency Management Directors are the third least likely to see their bread and butter be taken over by robotics. Given the sensitive nature and nuance of their jobs and again the unpredictability of things such as natural disasters and emergencies, it will remain a human task to delegate back to safety.

South Korea is the country where robots are most likely to replace humans

Rank Country Number of industrial robots per 10,000 employees in manufacturing industries 
1 South-Korea 631
2 Singapore 488
3 Germany 309
4 Japan 303
5 Sweden 223
6 Denmark 211
7 United States 189
8 Italy 185
9 Belgium 184
10 Taiwan 177
11 Spain 160
12 Netherlands 163
13 Canada 145
14 Austria 144
15 Finland 138

On average, 74 robots for every 10,000 employees will be performing tasks in the manufacturing industry. South Korea, however, leads the world rankings in terms of implementing robotics in their manufacturing processes: 631 robots per 10,000 human workers in 2016.

This is followed by another Asian nation known for its big technological advancements: Singapore. As of 2016, 488 industrial robots are put in place for every 10,000 employees.

Germany is the third most advanced country in terms of implementing robotics in their production lines with 309 robots per 10,000 people.

*74 robot units per 10,000 employees is the new average of global robot density in the manufacturing industries

The Danish government is most future-proof

Rank Country

E-Government

Index

E-Participation

Index

Online 

Service

Index

Human Capital

Index

Telecommunication Infrastructure Index
1 Denmark 0.9758 0.9643 0.9706 0.9588 0.9979
2 South Korea 0.9560 1.0000 1.0000 0.8997 0.9684
3 Estonia 0.9473 1.0000 0.9941 0.9266 0.9212
4 Finland 0.9452 0.9524 0.9706 0.9549 0.9101
5 Australia 0.9432 0.9643 0.9471 1.0000 0.8825
6 Sweden 0.9365 0.8214 0.9000 0.9471 0.9625
7 United Kingdom 0.9358 0.9762 0.9588 0.9292 0.9195
8 New Zealand 0.9339 0.9881 0.9294 0.9516 0.9207
9 United States 0.9297 1.0000 0.9471 0.9239 0.9182
10 Netherlands 0.9228 0.9643 0.9059 0.9349 0.9276
11 Singapore 0.9150 0.9762 0.9647 0.8904 0.8899
12 Iceland 0.9101 0.7738 0.7941 0.9525 0.9838
13 Norway 0.9064 0.9048 0.8765 0.9392 0.9034
14 Japan 0.8989 0.9881 0.9059 0.8684 0.9223
15 Austria 0.8914 0.9762 0.9471 0.9032 0.8240

Technological advancement and the automation of various processes aren’t limited to just the workforce; governments also need to ensure they aren’t stuck behind when it comes to automation. Looking at a variety of factors such as the availability of online services, human capital and the level of telecommunication infrastructure we’ve determined which countries are leading the way and are deemed the most future-proof.

Coming in first is the European government of Denmark, scoring highly for every metric researched such as E-government (electronic government) scoring 0.9758 – with the highest possible score being 1. This in essence means the utilisation of the Internet, computers, and other digital communications by a government. Another aspect Denmark scores high on (0.9643) is e-participation, which means many services provided by a government such as administrative purposes and decision-making involve technological advancement.

In secon place is the government of a country home to many tech giants; South Korea. The Asian republic scores 0.956 on the e-government index, as well as a full 1 on both the e-participation and online service index.

Third place is for another European government; Estonia. It scores high on all metrics including 0.9941 on the online service index, 0.9266 on the human capital index, and 0.9212 in terms of telecommunication infrastructure. 

The 10 countries that have seen the biggest increase in employment from 2012 to 2019

Rank Country Average percentage change in employment level by country, 2012-2019
1 Iran 29.00
2 Lithuania 27.00
3 The Netherlands 21.00
4 France 21.00
5 Slovakia 20.50
6 Austria 12 (Avg)
7 Spain 12 (Avg)
8 Czech Republic 11.00
9 UK 11.00
10 Denmark 11.00

Iran has made big advancements in terms of technological and educational advancement in recent years, which could be a contributing factor to the massive amount of jobs that were created across markets and taken on over the last decade; between 2012 and 2019 the country saw an increase of employment of 29% across all sectors.

Following suit with an increase of an employed population of 27%, is the European country of Lithuania, as well as The Netherlands where employment rates saw an increase of 21% in recent years.

Clerical support workers are roles most likely to become extinct

Rank Occupation Average percentage change in employment level by occupation (averaged across countries), 2012-2019
1 Other clerical support workers -13.50
2 Market-oriented skilled agricultural workers -10.00
3 Handicraft and printing workers -10.00
4 Metal, machinery and related trades workers -4.00
5 Sales workers 0.00
6 Agricultural, forestry and fishery labourers 0.00
7 Protective services workers 3.00
8 Business and administration associate professionals 4.00
9 Cleaners and helpers 5.00
10 Numerical and material recording clerks 5.00
11 Market-oriented skilled forestry, fishery and hunting workers 6.00
12 Building and related trades workers, excluding electricians 6.00
13 Electrical and electronic trades workers 6.00
14 Drivers and mobile plant operators 6.00
15 Stationary plant and machine operators 7.00

The industry that has experienced the biggest dip in employment over the past decade is the sector of clerical support workers, which saw a decrease of 13.50% from 2012 to 2019. According to our research, these are the types of jobs most at risk of dying out. Following are Market-oriented skilled agricultural workers as well as Handicraft and printing workers, which both saw a decrease of employment of 10%

Other sectors such as sales and agricultural careers have seen no increase in the availability of jobs despite the increase of demand.

South Korea invests the highest percentage of GDP in research and development

Rank Country % Of GDP invested into research and development
1 South Korea 4.1
2 Japan 3.4
3 Switzerland 3.2
4 Austria 3.1
5 Finland 3.1
6 Sweden 2.9
7 Denmark 2.9
8 Germany 2.7
9 USA 2.4
10 Slovenia 2.4
11 Belgium 2.3
12 France 2.3
13 Australia 2.2
14 Singapore 2.1
15 Czech-Republic 2.0

Out of all nations analysed, South Korea by far spends the biggest percentage of their Gross Domestic Product on projects relating to research and development. With 4.1%, this investment is helping the country move forward and keep up with technology to ensure its future-proof, which lines up with the nation being the second-best e-government.

Japan invests the second-biggest amount of their GDP into research and development with 3.4%, followed closely by Switzerland which spends 3.2% on keeping up with technological advancements.

Methodology and sources

E-government & Research and Development is ranked best to worst in the score table by using the RANK formula which uses the minimum and maximum range of numbers, all additional data is collected from reliable sources.