Four out of 10 working hours can be automated

A new study by the consultancy firm McKinsey & Company and Aarhus BSS shows that 40 per cent of all work done in the Danish labour market can be automated using today’s technology.  


The fourth industrial revolution is just around the corner, and whether we like it or not, it will have a radical impact on society as a whole, on companies and on individuals in the coming years.

As the name “The fourth industrial revolution” - or IR4.0 - indicates, industrial revolutions in the shape of manufacturing automation is not a new phenomenon. However, in the three previous revolutions, people most likely had no idea of the scope of the impending automation.

An economic weather forecast

This is what McKinsey consultants and Aarhus BSS researchers have now joined forces to study, and today, their take on an economic “weather forecast” for the Danish labour market is being published at a meeting at Innovation Fund Denmark under the heading: “Are we ready for the labour market of the future?”.

“Our analyses show that the automation will happen, and that we as a society, company and employer must deal with it whether we want to or not. It may not happen tomorrow, but it will happen,”    

Philipp Schröder - Professor, Department of Economics and Business Economics at Aarhus BSS. As the Director of the Tuborg Research Center for Globalisation and Firms, he participated in the analyses together with the consultants from McKinsey & Company.  

The analyses show the following:

  • On average, 40 % of all working hours in Denmark could potentially be automated using today’s technology.
  • In some sectors, the potential for automation is as high as 73 per cent, while in other sectors it is 19 per cent.
  • In general, the unskilled and those with a short education are more likely to be affected by automation than the highly educated.
  • Middle-income jobs are more likely to be automated than low- and high-income jobs.
  • Manufacturing jobs are significantly more likely to be automated than e.g. jobs within business service.
  • Overall, automation is a major economic opportunity, but it will impact all of society.
  • The potential for automation in Denmark is lower than on a global level, which the McKinsey Global Institute estimates to be an average of 49 per cent.
  • Automation will be able to increase economic growth in Denmark by up to 1.4 % per year until the year 2065.

Old tasks disappear - new emerge

“When the tectonic plates of the labour market shift, it will impact society as a whole, it will impact companies, and it will impact the individual person to a greater or lesser extent. Some tasks will disappear, and new tasks will emerge in the wake of the digitisation. Society must adapt to this within e.g. the fields of employment and education,” says Philipp Schröder.

Automation will impact the individual company as well - regardless of whether the company acts or does nothing.

“It’s not like there will be digital solutions for everything, but it’s probably a good idea to keep an eye on the trend within your industry. You don’t necessarily have to be a first mover. But you should probably make sure you’re not last,” says the economics professor from Aarhus BSS, who also points to the fact that entirely new markets will arise.

“The developing of solutions takes place in the markets, and we will see a boom in this development. After all, the robots must be developed and built,” Philipp Schröder points out.

Service sector will flourish

For the individual employee, there will be several possible paths to take if your work is impacted directly or indirectly by automation, and Philipp Schröder points to three possible ones:

  • You can continue within your field, but switch to an area where the work is still in demand.
  • You can educate yourself and pursue a new line of work.
  • You can do freelance work.

“The service sector will experience significant growth, and the need for services which we don’t even dream of today will emerge. This will provide new opportunities for freelance work,” predicts Philipp Schröder.

Download the full report here