Rise of robots could cost nearly half of British jobs

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Nearly half of British jobs are at risk of being taken over by robots, a report warned last night.

Technological advances mean 44 per cent of current roles could be automated, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think-tank found.

Employees working in catering, retail and agriculture are most under threat by the march of machines.

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Nearly half of British jobs are at risk of being taken over by robots, a report warned last night. Technological advances mean 44 per cent of current roles could be automated, the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank found, with catering, retail and agriculture under threat

Nearly half of British jobs are at risk of being taken over by robots, a report warned last night. Technological advances mean 44 per cent of current roles could be automated, the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank found, with catering, retail and agriculture under threat

REPORT FINDINGS 

The report raised the example of how Amazon has used sensors in its warehouses to monitor productivity.

The researchers said increasing automation had the potential to deliver a powerful boost to the productivity of UK business, bringing a future of ‘economic plenty’.

However, they warned that unless the change was properly managed by government, there was a danger that the benefits would be ‘narrowly’ concentrated in the hands of investors and small numbers of highly-skilled workers while the rest lost out.

Among the report’s proposals was a call for the creation of a new authority for the ethical use of robotics and artificial intelligence, modelled on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, to be established to regulate the future use of automating technologies.

The report rejected the idea that the country is heading for a ‘post human’ economy, arguing that most people will find work in newly created jobs, where humans still perform better than robots.

But it warned that the new ‘machine age’ could mean those on lower incomes see their wages fall, which would be particularly devastating for certain parts of the country.

The research estimated that jobs generating wages of £290 billion ($388 billion) a year – representing a third of all wages and earnings from labour in the UK economy – have the potential to be automated.

Northern Ireland and North East England are most susceptible with 48 per cent of jobs there at high risk of being automated, compared to 39 per cent in London.

Rather than creating mass unemployment, the report predicted that people would slowly be shifted into new fields of work over the course of decades. 

It said: ‘Work will be transformed by automation, not eliminated.

‘Automation is likely to lead to the steady redeployment of labour over a period of decades, rather than a sudden and rapid elimination of employment. 

The task contents of most jobs will evolve, changing the nature of work.’

There could be a boom in high-skilled jobs where humans still beat machines.

The think-tank said: ‘Automation could increase the demand for work in creative, cognitive, planning, decision-making, managerial and caring roles, where humans still outperform machines.’

It added: ‘New jobs and ways of working, often in close partnership with machines, will emerge.’

However, it warned that jobs where ‘humans working in tandem with machines could lead to greater monitoring and workplace stress’.

The report raised the example of how Amazon has used sensors in its warehouses to monitor productivity.

The researchers said increasing automation had the potential to deliver a powerful boost to the productivity of UK business, bringing a future of ‘economic plenty’.

Research estimates jobs generating wages of £290 billion ($388 billion) a year have the potential to be automated. Northern Ireland and North East England are most susceptible with, 48 per cent of jobs there at high risk of being automated, compared to 39 per cent in London

Research estimates jobs generating wages of £290 billion ($388 billion) a year have the potential to be automated. Northern Ireland and North East England are most susceptible with, 48 per cent of jobs there at high risk of being automated, compared to 39 per cent in London

Research estimates jobs generating wages of £290 billion ($388 billion) a year have the potential to be automated. Northern Ireland and North East England are most susceptible with, 48 per cent of jobs there at high risk of being automated, compared to 39 per cent in London

However, they warned that unless the change was properly managed by government, there was a danger that the benefits would be ‘narrowly’ concentrated in the hands of investors and small numbers of highly-skilled workers while the rest lost out.

Among the report’s proposals was a call for the creation of a new authority for the ethical use of robotics and artificial intelligence, modelled on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, to be established to regulate the future use of automating technologies.

IPPR senior research fellow Mathew Lawrence said: ‘Despite the rhetoric of the rise of the robots, machines aren’t about to take all our jobs. A bigger challenge is arguably the effect of automation on inequality in the UK.

‘Managed badly, the benefits of automation could be narrowly concentrated, benefiting those who own capital and highly skilled workers. Inequality would spiral.

‘Managed well though, with a strategy to increase adoption of technologies in the everyday economy and new models of ownership to spread the benefits, automation could help create a future of shared economic plenty.’

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney last year claimed that ‘up to 15million of the current jobs in Britain’ – almost half of the 31.8million workforce – could be replaced by robots over the coming years as livelihoods were ‘mercilessly destroyed’ by the technological revolution.





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