A third of existing UK jobs at risk from robotics and AI: report

25 March 2017

A third of existing UK jobs are at risk of being taken over by robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) within 15 years, according to a report.

An analysis by PwC revealed that as many as 30 per cent of existing roles in the UK could be automated by 2030 with the most at risk industries being waste management, transportation and manufacturing. The report stressed however, that automation would not lead to rocketing unemployment.

"The UK employment rate is at its highest level now since comparable records began in 1971, despite advances in digital and other labour-saving technologies," said John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC.

According to Hawksworth, automation would increasingly take on manual and routine tasks, but jobs requiring social skills and creative roles would be  more protected. "That said, no industry is entirely immune from future advances in robotics and AI," he said.

However, in many cases, the nature of jobs would change rather than the roles completely disappearing, according to PwC and particularly AI was expected to boost productivity and create additional jobs in new sectors of the economy.

"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," said Hawksworth.

The potential impact of job automation also varied according to the characteristics of individual workers and on average, PwC estimated that a higher proportion of male jobs (35 per cent), particularly those of men with lower levels of education, were at higher potential risk of automation than female jobs (26 per cent).

The UK is also unlikely to be the country most affected by these changes. In the US and Germany up to 38 per cent and 35 per cent of jobs were expected to face automation respectively, though the UK would more likely see the changes than Japan, in which 21 per cent of jobs could be affected.

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