UK workers at risk as AI and robotic technology advances

Apr 10, 2017
Author: Craig Burton
Craig acts as commercial partner for a wide range of corporate and non-corporate clients. He is also responsible for maintaining technical standards throughout the firm.
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AI and technology advances put UK workers at risk

Millions of UK workers – mainly those who work in retail and wholesale – are at risk from breakthroughs in AI and robotics, a recent report finds.

In the next 15 years, 10 million or more UK workers could be at risk of being replaced by robots as the automation of routine tasks gathers pace.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is becoming more advanced as the years go by, and in a recent report by a consultancy firm, it was found that as many as 30% of UK jobs could be under threat – so much so, that in some sectors half of all jobs could go.

Although the findings did state that automation could result in a boost in productivity, as well as creating fresh job opportunities, there is a concern in the report that certain measures need to be taken in order to avoid inequality as a result of robotics being used for low-skilled jobs.

The report says that 2.25 million jobs were at high risk in wholesale and retailing – the sector that employs the most people in the UK – and 1.2 million were under threat in the manufacturing sector, 1.1 million in administrative and support services and 950,000 in transport and storage.

There were two sectors identified in the report as the least likely to be affected, and these are education and health and social care. This is because those tasks are seen as hard to automate.

The report suggested that 35% of “male jobs” were identified as being at a higher risk than “female jobs”, that stands in at 26%. This is down to the findings indicating that female jobs required a higher level of education and social skills, whereas men were more likely to work in manufacturing and transportation.

A key UK weakness over the past decade has been our productivity levels, so by boosting this and in turn generating more wealth, any more advances in robotics should create additional jobs in less automatable parts of the economy as this extra wealth is spent or invested, according to an expert.

The expert said that although technically possible to replace a worker with a robot, this may not mean it is economically viable to do so. This would depend on the cost and productivity of the robots compared with that of their human counterparts.

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