robots job automation

Automation commission set up to monitor the impact of AI on jobs

An MP-led commission has been set up to examine the impact that automation and AI will have on the jobs market.

The panel was set up by the Community union and the Fabian Society and is led by Senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper.

Its first report, which is not due until 2020, will examine how to create and protect good quality jobs and support workers through the process of rapid technological change.

The scale of the challenge was underlined by a poll which indicated that more than a fifth of workers feared their job would be rendered obsolete in the next decade. The YouGov poll, taken last month, surveyed a representative sample of 1,092 adults in paid work.

It suggested that workers were generally positive about their own ability to cope with change – 73 per cent are confident they will be able to adapt and update their skills if new technology affects their job.

53 per cent suggested they were optimistic about their future working lives and job prospects when thinking about the changes in technology in the workplace by 2028.

But 22 per cent agreed they were worried their current job may not be needed by 2028 and 36 per cent thought their role would change for the worse.

This roughly tallies with a report from think tank Centre for Cities in January that found that automation is expected to displace around one in five existing jobs in Britain by 2030. 

Only nine per cent of workers think that the UK government is taking steps to prepare them for new workplace technologies; only 16 per cent employees with a trade union in their workplace think that their unions are taking steps to help ensure that new technologies improve their working life.

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, said: “These figures should serve as a wake-up call for all trade unions. The vast majority of workers in unionised workplaces do not believe we are supporting them to cope with technological change.

“Automation cannot simply be opposed, rather it should be made to work in the interests of working people.

“Our members are already dealing with the consequences of automation being managed badly.”

Former work and pensions secretary Cooper said: “The digital revolution means technology and jobs are changing faster than ever.

“This survey of workers found that almost a quarter of workers are worried that their job will no longer be needed.

“And whilst it found that most people are optimistic that they will be able to change and update their skills, they also say they are not getting any help or support to train or adapt from the government, their employer or a trade union.

“It is vital that action is taken now to ensure changing technology doesn’t widen inequality and to make sure all workers feel the benefits.

“Technology can have great benefits as well as create new challenges. Almost half of those surveyed said they thought their job would improve with new technology, however nearly a quarter were worried that their job would go altogether.

“It’s vital that action is taken now to make sure technology creates new better jobs and that all workers benefit from new technology.

“We have to make sure that automation and the digital revolution don’t widen inequality and that everyone gets the help and support they need to get on.”

A report last year suggested that Brexit could hasten the rollout of automation due to possible labour shortages from a clampdown in immigration from the rest of Europe. 

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