Robots and computers threaten 14% of existing jobs over the next 20 years, so countries must retrain workers for a transformed labour market, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has warned today. 

In a report, the OECD estimates that in addition to the destruction of jobs and entire trades, an additional 32% of current jobs are likely to be "deeply transformed" by automation in the work place. 

According to OECD General Secretary Angel Gurria, the lack of preparation for the looming digital age is a time bomb on social and political levels. 

"It is important that people feel that they will be supported if they lose out, and helped in their search for new and better opportunities," he said in a foreword to the report. 

Already, "people and communities have been left behind by globalisation and a digital divide persists," Gurria added, pointing to "inequalities along age, gender, and socio-economic lines". 

Many of those who have lost out "are stuck in precarious working arrangements with little pay and limited or no access to social protection, lifelong learning and collective bargaining," he noted.

The OECD's researchers found 56% of adults in the 36 OECD member countries - among them economic giants like the US, Japan or Germany - have only "basic" or non-existent information and communication technology (ICT) skills. 

As a priority, the OECD recommends that member countries, also including Canada, Chile and Britain, offer "more flexible" retraining compatible with employees' working hours to make it more attractive.

While some governments such as that in France offer financial support for lifelong learning, firms especially in the US are often reluctant to invest in their staff's skills. 

The OECD also highlighted a growing trend towards self-employment, with one in seven workers in the club of rich countries working for themselves, while one in nine was on a temporary contract. 

Such working relationships often make employees ineligible for training or retraining opportunities.