According to an analysis carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the rise in automation means that as many as 1.5 million jobs could be lost in the UK. This follows concerns that the growing number of companies using automation could lead to a rise in poverty and wealth inequality.
Previous research has shown that the jobs that have the potential to be automated in the future are worth an estimated £290 billion a year, or around 33% of wages in the UK’s economy, and that this would mostly affect those on lower wages.
The ONS points out that, of the jobs that are at risk of being lost, a high number are held by young people and part-time workers. The study looked at the tasks currently being performed by various workers and analysed the risk of them being replaced by technology, which includes algorithms, robots, or computer programs.
The jobs at the highest risk of automation were shelf fillers, low-level sales jobs, waiters, bar staff, and kitchen assistants. Workers who were at the lowest risk were medical staff, dentists, secondary school teachers, and higher education teachers.
The researchers explained, “It is not so much that robots are taking over, but that routine and repetitive tasks can be carried out more quickly and efficiently by an algorithm written by a human, or a machine designed for one specific function.”
Maja Korica, associate professor of organisation at Warwick Business School, said: “What is most concerning is the speed at which the biggest players are introducing these changes. If you take a company like Amazon, it introduced more than 50,000 new robots in 2017, a 100% increase from the previous year.”
She added: “Estimates suggest 20% of its workforce may already be made up of robots. Policymakers and business leaders need to be thinking about how they work together to deal with these problems.”