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A third of UK workers set to be replaced by robots

Written by Josh Russell on Tuesday, 11 November 2014. Posted in HR, Innovation, Technology, People

Survey reveals that a third of British jobs are at risk of being replaced by automation over the next two decades

A third of UK workers set to be replaced by robots

Whilst we may still be waiting for hoverboards and few of Kraft’s food brands are yet available in pill form, sci-fi can at long last put one in the win column: it’s been confirmed that in the future all of our jobs will be done by robots. Or near enough. We may be a way off going full-on Asimov just yet but research has revealed that over a third of jobs in the UK are at a high risk of being replaced in the next 20 years by technology, automation and robotics.

Carried out by Deloitte – alongside Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A Osborne, from the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science and the Oxford Martin School respectively – the report predicts that the UK will see a significant shift in the labour market over the next two decades, with 35% of jobs at a high risk of being taken over by silicon usurpers compared to 40% that are at low or no risk.

The sectors at the most significant risk are office and administrative support, sales and services, construction and extraction, transportation and production. Less likely to see an influx of R2D2s are areas like skilled management, financial services, computing, engineering and science, education, legal services, community services, healthcare and the arts and media. And, presumably, any workplace with stairs.

However, our new life working under our metal overlords won’t be all bad, with the research finding that nearly three quarters of businesses are planning to increase headcount overall, focusing on robot-proof disciplines such as management, the creative sector and, ironically, digital. Subsequently businesses are feeling rather bullish about a life all watched over by machines of loving grace; 84% of those in London’s transport, travel and hospitality sector feel technology will have a positive impact on their businesses, followed by 81% in technology, media and telecoms, 70% in the public sector and 68% in financial and business services.

Still, when one takes into account that automation is likely to further put the squeeze on those at the bottom end of the pay scale – with lower-paid jobs across the UK five times more likely to be replaced by machines and nearly eight times in London – the news is understandably going to make a lot of people very twitchy. And without sensible planning, it seems likely that this will only widen escalating wage inequality.

As Angus Knowles-Cutler, London senior partner at Deloitte, said:

“Technological advances are likely to cause a major shift in the UK labour market in the coming decades, creating both challenges and opportunities.

“Unless these changes coming in the next two decades are fully understood and anticipated by businesses, policy makers and educators, there will be a risk of avoidable unemployment and under-employment. A widening gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is also a risk as lower skill jobs continue to disappear.”

A stark warning then. Better be prepared to pick up some new skills: your toaster’s got its eye on your job. 

About the Author

Josh Russell

Josh Russell

As editor, Russell is the man in charge of properly apostrophising our publication and ensuring Oxford commas are mercilessly excised. Our digital doyen, he’s also a Photoshop Pro, a dab hand with InDesign and the man to go to if you need a four-hour soliloquy about the UK's best silicon startups.

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