Deloitte: Robots threatening a third of UK workforce

11 November 2014

A recent report by Deloitte with the University of Oxford predicts that the robot revolution will displace almost 35% of UK jobs in the coming twenty years and around 30% of London based jobs in the same period. The UK and London are well situated to take advantage of the changes with its high-skilled and adaptable workforce.

The automotive revolution
In research, carried out by Deloitte with Carl Benedikt Frey, of the Oxford Martin School, and Michael Osborne, of the Department of Engineering Science, at the University of Oxford, it is predicted that roles such as clerical, support services, administration, sales, transportation, construction and production are likely to be replaced by automated process, with the roles most likely to survive the robotic purges, requiring digital know-how, people, management and creative skills. Educators, scientists, healthcare professions and computer engineers will still be in high demand over the coming decades. Around 40% of UK jobs are therefore unlikely to be automated in the coming twenty years, with 51% in the high-skilled London. It is especially low paid and repetitive jobs, those earning under 30,000 pounds, which are five times more likely to be taken over by robots and AI algorithms, compared to jobs that pay over 100,000 pounds.

UK Jobs at risk from computerisation

Automation will usher in changes to how we do things and what we do. The labour market is changing 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.”

Moving toward rapid adaptation
It’s not all bad news however, 73% of London businesses plan to increase their headcount in the next five years, 51% say they will add at least 10% to current staff numbers. It is expected the London will create 300,000 new high skilled positions in the coming seven years, these will come to fill some of the losses generated from a race to automation.

Robots threatening a third of UK workforce

The UK and London have seen similar changes before, the industrial revolution too brought broad changes to the kinds of employment, and it is likely that with the right preparation in place, the UK is able to adapt to the coming changes. One consequence of the trend is that employees may need to be adaptive to a quickly changing employment environment, holding several different positions in their career as their old job is automated away and they move into the newly created jobs of the future. Whether the low skilled and low educated are able to adapt to the rapidly changing employment environment is an open and an increasingly pressing question. Wide social consequences may follow from the current trend, not seen before in human employment development as mainly high skilled job become favoured.

“Skilled cities like London are incubators for new ideas and products. With the right policies, London can be at the front-line in developing the next generation of digital technologies,” concludes Benedikt Frey.


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