A third of UK jobs could be impacted by automation


Up to 30% of existing UK jobs could be impacted by automation over the next 15 years, but new technologies will also boost productivity and generate jobs elsewhere in the economy.

This is according to research by PwC, which also showed the UK has a lower proportion of existing jobs at risk of automation than the US (38%) and Germany (35%), but more than Japan (21%).

PwC’s analysis showed the potential impact of automation varies significantly across sectors. Transportation and storage (56%), manufacturing (46%) and wholesale and retail trade (44%) have the highest proportion of jobs facing potential high risks of automation among the larger sectors. At the other end of the spectrum, education and health and social work are estimated to face the lowest risks of automation given the relatively high proportion of tasks that are hard to automate.

According to the findings, there is also a variation in potential impact of job automation based on the characteristics of individual workers. PwC estimated that, on average, a higher proportion of male jobs (35%), particularly those of men with lower levels of education, are at higher potential risk of automation than female jobs (26%).

This reflects the fact that relatively highly automatable sectors such as transportation and storage and manufacturing tend to have high proportions of men working in them. In contrast, female workers are more concentrated in occupations requiring higher levels of social skills - and often higher average education levels - such as health and education.

John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, commented: “A key driver of our industry-level estimates is the fact that manual and routine tasks are more susceptible to automation, while social skills are relatively less automatable. That said, no industry is entirely immune from future advances in robotics and AI.

“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.”

Monday, 27 March 2017

Share this article

Any questions? Any comments?

Your instant reactions to this article can be posted here. Use your own name or a nom de plume.

Be the first to make a comment...

Please log in to make a comment

Not registered? Click here.

A third of UK jobs could be impacted by automation