Digital technology to eliminate a third of UK jobs

Computers and robots are set to replace more than a third of UK jobs in the next twenty years, a Deloitte report has claimed, causing a ‘major shift’ in the labour market.

Advances in digital technologies, robotics and automation will continue to disrupt a variety of industries, affecting 35 percent of total roles of existing roles, with the figure slightly lower - 30 percent - in London.

The research, carried out by Deloitte with Carl Benedikt Frey, of the Oxford Martin School, and Michael A Osborne, of the Department of Engineering Science, at the University of Oxford, shows that lower paid workers are the most at risk.

For example, jobs paying less than £30,000 a year are nearly five times more likely to be replaced by automation than those paying over £100,000.

Advances in technology are expected to see jobs requiring ‘repetitive processing’, clerical and support services being replaced with roles that require digital, creative and management skills. At most risk are jobs in office and administrative support, sales and services, transport and construction.

The least impact will be felt in education, engineering and science, legal services, arts and media, and the financial sector.

“Technological advances are likely to cause a major shift in the UK labour market in the coming decades, creating both challenges and opportunities,” said Angus Knowles-Cutler, London senior partner at Deloitte

“Unless these changes coming in the next two decades are fully understood and anticipated by businesses, policy makers and educators, there will be 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.”

A survey of 100 businesses carried out by Deloitte also shows that the skills being sought by employers will change over the next ten years, with ‘digital know-how’, ‘management’ and ‘creativity’ replacing others, such as foreign languages.

However, London is likely to be less affected by change, with 51 percent of roles in the capital facing 'low' or 'no risk', compared to 40 percent or the rest of the country.

The majority of businesses in London’s transport, travel and hospitality sector, 84 percent, expect digital change to have a predictable and positive impact on their businesses. This is followed by technology, media and telecoms, 81 percent, public sector, 70 percent, and financial and business services, 68 percent.

In fact, 73 percent of the London businesses approached claim they will increase headcount in coming years to attract more high skilled staff.

“Skilled cities like London are incubators for new ideas and products. With the right policies, London can be at the front-line in developing the next generation of digital technologies," the report authors said.

“To remain a world leading city, London needs to manage the transition of its workforce into new occupations and industries, as it has done so successfully in the past.

“While the scope of potential job automation is rapidly expanding, London’s workforce is relatively resilient to these developments.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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