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Robots and AI are threatening close to a third of UK jobs, study reveals

Up to 30 per cent of UK jobs are at risk of being taken over by robots and Artificial Intelligence by the early 2030s, a new report warns.

The study, published by professional services firm PwC, claims that the likelihood of automation is highest in sectors including transport, manufacturing, wholesale and retail.

Education, health and social work are less at risk and— as a result of that— male workers are more likely to see their jobs taken over by robots than their female counterparts.

Despite the threat, though, PwC says that the rise of automation is actually likely to boost productivity and generate additional jobs elsewhere in the economy in the long run.

“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,” said John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC.

“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,” he added.

Mr Hawksworth pointed out that the UK employment rate is now at its highest level in decades, “despite all the advances in digital and other labour-saving technologies we have seen since”.

He said that it is therefore “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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The report also points out that while automation in many industries is a possibility, economic, legal and regulatory constraints mean that it is not a given.

Mr Hawksworth said that this “may not be a bad thing if it gives existing workers and businesses more time to adapt to this brave new world”.

And PwC’s study shows that the UK is by far not the country that is most susceptible.

It shows that 38 per cent of US jobs could at some point be done by robots, and 35 per cent of German jobs.

Last month, telecoms company O2 announced plans to introduce AI technology capable of performing the same job as customer service staff.

That technology is expected to launch in the UK next year and will enable the company to cut customer service costs.

The Reform thinktank in February published a report showing that robots and computers could replace almost 250,000 UK public sector workers over the next 15 years.

The group at the time said that use of websites and “chat bots” would remove the need for 130,000 Whitehall administrators, around 90 per cent of the total, by 2030, saving £2.6bn a year.

A further 90,000 NHS administrative posts and 24,000 GP receptionists could be subjected to automation in a similar way, with savings of more than £1.7bn, the thinktank claimed.


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