robot automation

Third of UK jobs could be affected by automation, PwC report finds

The nature of some types of employment is predicted to change rather than vanish as robots advance.

Automation and artificial intelligence could affect up to a third of UK jobs by the 2030s, a study by consultancy firm PwC has found.

Unsurprisingly, manual work and jobs involving simple, repetitive tasks were found to be most at risk, while those involving social skills were deemed relatively less automatable.

Jobs in transportation, storage, manufacturing and retail are most likely to be lost under automation, while the lowest risks are in education, health and social work, the report said.

It also predicted the nature of some types of employment would change rather than disappear altogether as technology advances.

PwC found the UK has fewer jobs at potential risk of automation than other countries including Germany, the United States and Japan.

The firm's chief economist John Hawksworth said no industry was entirely immune from future advances in robotics and AI.

He added: 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.

The UK employment rate is at its highest level now since comparable records began in 1971, despite all the advances in digital and other labour-saving technologies we have seen since.

It is not clear that the future will be radically different from the past in terms of how automation will affect overall UK employment rates.

Employment Minister Damian Hinds said: We have a resilient and diverse labour market in the UK, demonstrated by the latest record-breaking figures showing more people in work than ever before.

Whether it's in cyberspace or on the shop floor, advances in technology bring new jobs. It's only right that we embrace these opportunities, support new skills and help more people get into employment to secure a workforce of the future.

At a recent conference at the London Assembly, economist Professor Dieter Helm warned: We’ve only just begun to think about what artificial intelligence means. It’s going to gut huge areas of the economy of jobs.

A parliamentary committee is currently investigating the future world of work.

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