Hot topic: Automation and the rise of the robots, part two

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With research from Deloitte suggesting many lower-skilled workers may lose their jobs to machines in the future, should people be worried about the impact that increased levels of automation will have on employment?

Deloitte’s recent prediction that 35% of UK jobs could be replaced by advances in technology and automation over the next 20 years is clearly food for thought. Unless these changes are fully understood and anticipated by businesses, policy makers and educators, there is 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. We found that jobs paying less than £30,000 a year were nearly five times more likely to be replaced by automation than those paying over £100,000. Employers need to think carefully about the skills they will need in the future.

However, there is cause for optimism. We found that 40% of UK jobs are at low or no risk of being replaced, rising to 51% in London.

We interviewed 100 London businesses about how technology will impact their employment and skills needs and they were surprisingly upbeat. Seventy-three percent said that they plan to increase their headcount in the next five years and 51% say they will add at least 10% to current staff numbers. The businesses we surveyed told us that skills such as digital know-how, creativity and management are in demand, with processing, support and clerical roles less so.

So it’s not all doom and gloom. The economy is recovering and job growth is coming from dynamic businesses – a recent report from Deloitte found that the 1,000 fastest-growing medium-sized businesses have increased their headcount by 181,780 in three years.

The challenge is to ensure that we are ready for the changes technology will bring to the UK labour market and that those most at risk don’t get left behind.

Angus Knowles-Cutler is a London senior partner at Deloitte

Click here to read the first part of the Hot Topic

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