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Hello robots and goodbye to jobs

A recent study suggests the day humanity has long feared is approaching; the robots are in fact coming for our jobs.

Research from the University of Oxford was presented in the London Futures report which finds that 35% of UK jobs and 30% of London jobs are at high risk of being automated in the next twenty years.

This equates to over 10 million jobs according to the latest figures.

Understandably lower paying jobs, (those under £30,000 a year) are at a much higher risk, being nearly five times more likely to be replaced. Manufacturing jobs are some of the positions at highest risk of automation.

Following this trend skills desired by employers are also shifting. 84% of London businesses say they are looking for ‘digital know-how’, ‘management’ and ‘creativity’ while skills like ‘processing,’ ‘support and clerical work’ and ‘foreign languages’ have declined in demand.

Fears of unemployment due to widespread automation is nothing new, in 1930 John Maynard Keynes proclaimed that “We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come – namely, technological unemployment. This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour.”

In the past, manufacturing jobs were most at risk for automation as the simple, repetitive nature of those jobs made them ideal for robots.

As technology improves more and more jobs are at risk. Lowe’s, an American hardware store, has begun testing a robotic customer service assistant, which is capable of responding to voice commands in several languages and can lead customers to find objects in the store.

Technologies such as self driving cars which are safer and more reliable than human drivers could replace millions of jobs in the transportation industry such as taxi drivers and truckers.

Even writing jobs may be at risk as automated writing software exists and is already at use in some newspapers.

IBM’s Watson is capable of providing medical diagnoses so even high paying medical jobs may not be completely safe from automation as was once thought.

‘This is Money’ has posted a listing of 700 occupations and ranked them on their level of susceptibility to replacement by automation.

Some, like telemarketers and data entry keyers are expected, others including manicurists and pedicurists (listed at 95% probability of being replaced) were more surprising.

Chiropractors were listed as least likely to be replaced followed by higher level STEM and arts positions, such as Biochemist, Materials Engineers, Fashion Designers, and Photographers.

The London Futures study found that 40% of UK jobs are classified as low risk. The report states that, “jobs requiring creativity and social skills are not susceptible to automation”.

Some hope that even as technology takes jobs it will open up new areas of employment maintaining and running the machines. Whatever the case, whether you support this automation or not, it is clear that we are moving into a new phase of labour.

Kate Wilkinson

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One Comment

  1. Automation is not a long term problem for the following reason: human labour is necessarily scarce. What I mean by this is that the amount of human labour is finite, whereas the amount of things that can be done with that labour is infinite. What automation does is free up human labour from less productive uses, and make it available for application to more productive uses. This has been happening for the last few thousand years. There is no reason to assume that human beings will ever run out of things to be getting on with.

    Reply

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