North and Midlands most exposed to automation-related job losses

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The government must target the UK's regions differently and provide opportunities for retraining

Cities in the North and the Midlands are more exposed to job losses as a result of automation than those in the South, according to a report from Centre for Cities.

The Cities Outlook 2018 report found that around 18% of jobs are under threat in Southern cities, compared to 23% in cities elsewhere in the country.

The report predicted that towns and cities with a lower share of high-skilled jobs, such as Mansfield, Sunderland and Wakefield, face losing nearly 30% of their current roles.

Mansfield was found to have the highest share of jobs likely to decline of any UK city. The cities that topped the list of places least at risk of job losses were Oxford, Cambridge, Reading, Worthing and London, with the percentage of jobs at risk 13% for Oxford and Cambridge, 15% for Reading, and 16% for Worthing and London.

Roles in retail, administration and warehouses were reported to be most at risk.

The report found that overall one in five existing jobs in British cities are likely to be displaced by 2030 as a result of automation and globalisation, amounting to 3.6 million roles in total.

It raised concerns that this will magnify the political dissatisfaction and divisions highlighted by the outcome of the EU referendum – with many of the cities most at risk of losing jobs also among those that voted most strongly for Brexit.

Mansfield for example had the largest proportion of residents who voted in favour of leaving the EU, at 70% (compared to 30% for Oxford, for example).

“Automation and globalisation will bring huge opportunities to increase prosperity and jobs, but there is also a risk that many people and places will lose out,” commented Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities.

He called on the government to “act now” to ensure growth strategies were tailored to different regions, and to provide retraining opportunities for those worst affected by automation-related job losses. “National and local leaders need to ensure that people in cities across the North and Midlands can share in the benefits these changes could offer,” he said.

“That means reforming the education system to give young people the cognitive and interpersonal skills they need to thrive in the future, and improving school standards, especially in places where jobs are most at risk. We also need greater investment in lifelong learning and technical education to help adults adapt to the changing labour market, and better retraining for people who lose their jobs because of these changes."

He added: “In an evermore divided country it’s increasingly clear that a one-size-fits-all approach from central government is inadequate to address the myriad issues that different places face. The challenges and opportunities ahead for Blackburn are very different to those for Brighton. The government needs to give cities more powers and resources to tackle the issues that automation and globalisation will present, and to make the most of the benefits they will bring.”

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