As the automation of routine tasks gathers pace in a new machine age, more than 10 million UK workers are at high risk of being replaced by robots within 15 years, suggests a new report.
Due to breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), 30% of jobs in Britain were potentially under threat a report by the consultancy firm PwC found. Half the jobs could go in some sectors.
The report said that action was needed to prevent the widening of inequality that would result from robots increasingly being used for low-skill tasks but predicted that automation would boost productivity and create fresh job opportunities.
950,000 are under threat in transport and storage, 1.1 million in administrative and support services, 1.2 million were under threat in manufacturing and 2.25 million jobs were at high risk in wholesale and retailing – the sector that employs most people in the UK, PwC said.
To ensure the potential gains from automation were not concentrated in too few hands, there was an argument for government intervention in education, lifelong learning and job matching as the biggest impact would be on workers who had left school with GCSEs or lower, the report said.
Jon Andrews, the head of technology and investments at PwC, said: “There’s no doubt that AI and robotics will rebalance what jobs look like in the future, and that some are more susceptible than others.
“What’s important is making sure that the potential gains from automation are shared more widely across society and no one gets left behind. Responsible employers need to ensure they encourage flexibility and adaptability in their people so we are all ready for the change.
“In the future, knowledge will be a commodity so we need to shift our thinking on how we skill and upskill future generations. Creative and critical thinking will be highly valued, as will emotional intelligence.”
Because of the high proportion of tasks seen as hard to automate, the two sectors seen as least threatened by robots are education and health and social care.
PwC said women would be less in jeopardy of losing their jobs than men, who were more likely to work in sectors such as manufacturing and transportation, because women tend to work in sectors that require a higher level of education and social skills. Against 26% of female jobs, 35% of male jobs were identified as being at high risk.
Latest to assess the potential for job losses and heightened inequality from AI is the PwC study. To support those machines make redundant, consideration of a “robot tax” could be eh result of the scale of the workplace transformation set to take place in the coming decades, Robert Schiller, a Nobel-prize winning US economist, has said.
John Hawksworth, PwC’s chief economist, said: “A key driver of our industry-level estimates is the fact that manual and routine tasks are more susceptible to automation, while social skills are relatively less automatable. That said, no industry is entirely immune from future advances in robotics and AI.
“Automating more manual and repetitive tasks will eliminate some existing jobs but could also enable some workers to focus on higher value, more rewarding and creative work, removing the monotony from our day jobs.
“By boosting productivity – a key UK weakness over the past decade – and so generating wealth, advances in robotics and AI should also create additional jobs in less automatable parts of the economy as this extra wealth is spent or invested.”
(Adapted from The Guardian)