AI: How Will Robots Change The Workforce?

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Will a robot one day take your job? What type of jobs will they take? How will automation change the way we see work? We look at the potential impact of robots at work.

It’s 2030. While not quite turned completely into Blade Runner, the world has changed. And one area that’s most keenly felt is in the world of work, because there are set to be lots of robots running around.

Artificial intelligence is not new. Researchers have been looking into automotive technology for decades and robots have been employed in some jobs - carmaking, logistics, warehousing - for a few years already.

But by the year 2030 robots will play a much larger role in our workforces and, consequently, our society. Recent research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) suggests that up to 30 per cent of existing jobs could be automated by the early 2030s. But put fears that it will lead to mass unemployment aside - in fact, more automation should see new jobs created in other sectors of the economy.

Perhaps surprisingly, that 30 per cent figure is higher than the forecasts for Japan (21 per cent of jobs), given we consider Japan to be tech-obsessed. The sectors most likely to see more robots include transport, manufacturing, wholesale and retail; those with less include education, health and social work, because these industries have tasks that are hard to automate.

While as many as 30 per cent of existing UK jobs could be replaced over the next 15 years, new AI technologies will also benefit, because they will boost productivity and generate additional jobs elsewhere in the economy, according to the UK Economic Outlook report.

“A key driver of our industry-level estimates is the fact that manual and routine tasks are more susceptible to automation, while social skills are relatively less automatable. That said, no industry is entirely immune from future advances in robotics and AI,” John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC.

“Automating more manual and repetitive tasks will eliminate some existing jobs, but could also enable some workers to focus on higher value, more rewarding and creative work, removing the monotony from our day jobs. 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.

“The UK employment rate is at its highest level now since comparable records began in 1971, despite all the advances in digital and other labour-saving technologies we have seen since. It is not clear that the future will be radically different from the past in terms of how automation will affect overall UK employment rates.”

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