News | Published March 25 2019

1.5 million at "high risk" of losing their jobs to automation, say ONS

The Office for National Statistics have published analysis which claims that around 1.5 million jobs in England are “at high” risk of being automated. The analysis also found that women, young people and part-time workers were most at risk of having their roles automated. 

Analysing 20 million people in 2017, they found that 7.4 per cent were at “high risk of automation.” 

The ONS defines automation as “replacing tasks currently done by workers with technology, which could include computer programmes, algorithms, or even robots.”

According to their figures, the proportion of “high risk” jobs has decreased from 8.1 per cent to 7.4 per cent between 2011 and 2017. In this time however, the proportion of jobs at low and medium risk has risen.

The ONS stated that while the exact reasons for the decrease in the high risk proportion was unclear “it is possible that automation of some jobs has already happened.” 

They stated that self-checkouts at supermarkets were an example of automation already occurring. 

The report also suggested that as the overall number of jobs has increased, the majority of these are at low to medium or risk, potentially meaning that the labour market is changing to focus on jobs with more complex skills and thus ones that are harder to automate. It is for this reason that lower-skilled roles are at the highest risk of automation.

The ONS identified the three occupations with the highest probability of automation: waiters and waitresses, shelf fillers and elementary sales occupations which it described as “low skilled or routine.”

The three occupations with the lowest risk of automation are medical practitioners, higher education teaching professionals and senior professionals of educational establishments. 

A full break down of occupations, and their risk of automation, can be found here. The ONS have also published a map which ranks the likelihood of automation depending on where the job is located.

In terms of worker demographics, 70.2 per cent of high risk roles are held by women. The age group at the highest risk of automation are people aged between 20 and 24 who have a 15.7 per cent risk.

As reported by the BBC, Maja Korica, associate professor of organisation at Warwick Business School, identified the speed at which big companies are introducing these changes as the most concerning factor.

She said: "What is most concerning is the speed at which the biggest players are introducing these changes.

"If you take a company like Amazon, it introduced more than 50,000 new robots in 2017, a 100 per cent increase from the previous year. Estimates suggest 20 per cent of its workforce may already be made up of robots.

"Policymakers and business leaders need to be thinking about how they work together to deal with these problems."

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Authored by

George Salmon
Political Editor
March 25 2019

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