Jessica Fino 20 Sep 2017 01:02pm

Private sector to lose 15% of workforce to robots

Almost a quarter of accountants think a high level of jobs in their organisation will be replaced by robots over the next decade, a new survey has revealed

A survey of the UK business leaders by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and YouGov warned that 15% of private sector jobs in Britain have the potential to be fully automated in the next decade.

Despite this only 13% of the respondents said automation would have a big impact on their workforce numbers, while 22% said they saw zero prospects for job automation in their business.

The survey, commissioned by the RSA and conducted by YouGov, included responses from 1,111 senior managers and directors of UK companies.

When looking at middle and high-skilled jobs, almost 25% of finance and accounting leaders said they see considerable potential for job automation in their organisation (defined as more than 31% of jobs being automatable in the next 10 years).

They were followed by transportation and distribution bosses (21%) and manufacturers (20%). Business leaders in medical and health services were the least worried about job automation, with only 2% expecting automation to have an impact in their sector.

Nearly half (46%) of the respondents, however, believe new technologies are more likely to alter jobs than to eliminate them, and lead to greater prosperity in the long-run.

The RSA revealed that the adoption rate of AI and robotics is low among UK business leaders, with just 14% that have already invested in AI and robotics, or were planning to in the near future.

Moreover, 20% said they want to invest but that it will take several years before they will “seriously” do so, and 14% are aware of the technology but believe it is too costly.

Benedict Dellot, RSA associate director, said, “Some may view the slow take up of AI and robotics as a welcome reprieve from the disruptive forces of technology. But all this will mean is a continuation of the status quo, which is a low-skilled, low-paid and unproductive economy that does little to improve people’s living standards.

“Whether it’s robots that relieve manufacturing workers of dangerous tasks, algorithms that enable doctors to recommend more appropriate treatments, or machines that can help social care workers lift and carry patients, advances in AI and robotics promise to pave the way towards a better world of work. It is now up to policymakers, employers and educators to help society grasp the opportunities.”

The survey also showed that, since 2010, jobs in retail have fallen by 7000 but jobs in warehousing have increased by 115,000 as a result of e-commerce and the automation of bricks and mortar retail jobs.