Industrial robots and automation threaten low-skilled jobs across the UK

Robots and automation threaten a third of UK jobs

Robots and automated systems could replace more than a third of jobs in the UK in the next 20 years, according to a new report.

Jobs that require repetitive processing, clerical and support services will increasingly be done by machines, according to the study carried out by Deloitte in conjunction with Oxford University, with these trends already well underway.

Up to 35 per cent of existing jobs in the UK, decreasing to 30 per cent in London, are at high risk from automation over the next two decades, the research found, while roles requiring digital, management and creative skills will be increasingly in demand.

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.”

Across the UK, jobs paying less than £30,000 a year are nearly five times more likely to be replaced by automation than jobs paying over £100,000, while in London lower paid jobs are eight times more likely to be replaced.

Among those roles the report says are at the highest risk of replacement are office and administrative support, sales and services, transport, construction, extraction and mining and production.

However, 40 per cent of UK jobs are at low or no risk, rising to 51 per cent in London, with skilled management, financial services, computing, engineering and science, education, legal services, community services, the arts and media, and healthcare the least likely to be replaced.

In London, at least, the report found that businesses are already beginning to respond to the shift by recruiting more highly-skilled positions.

A Deloitte survey of 100 businesses based or with premises in London found that 73 per cent plan to increase their headcount in the next five years, but that 84 per cent say the skills of their employees will need to change over the next ten years.

‘Digital know-how’, ‘management’ and ‘creativity’ were highlighted by respondents to the survey as the skills most in demand in London, with ‘processing,’ ‘support and clerical work’ and ‘foreign languages’ increasingly irrelevant.

Co-author of the study Carl Benedikt Frey, from the University of Oxford, said: "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.

“To remain a world-leading city, London needs to manage the transition of its workforce into new occupations and industries, as it has done so successfully in the past. While the scope of potential job automation is rapidly expanding, London’s workforce is relatively resilient to these developments.”

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