Research finds 1.4 million UK jobs could be automated this year

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According to a Faethm AI forecast, over 1.4 million jobs in the UK could be replaced by automation this year alone.

Faethm’s mission is to prepare the world “for the future of work” by using an AI engine – trained on billions of workforce data points – to predict what jobs need reskilling versus upskilling.

James McLeod, VP of the EMEA region at Faethm, said

“Employers and employees alike need to change their perspective. The future of work is already here and the introduction of technology does not affect work in a uniform way.

We must acknowledge where it supplements existing work and invest in a targeted reskilling approach that recognises the new roles technology is creating and ensures human and machine labour complement one another.

Doing so will not only help businesses add capacity and increase productivity, but also ensure they are looking after employees—making financially beneficial and morally responsible decisions and creating a digitally-adept workforce for the future.”

In its latest UK Workforce Forecast report (registration required), Faethm expects 4.8 percent of work – equivalent to 1.4 million full-time roles – to be automated over the next 12 months. A further 2.9 percent is predicted to be augmented by AI.

Adjusted for population, Wales (5.3%), Northern Ireland (5.2%), and the North of England (5.1%) have the highest proportions of jobs at risk of automation.

Nan Craig, Data Analyst at Faethm, commented:

“Even ordinary downturns tend to increase automation, as companies are tempted to replace expensive labour with cheaper automated systems. However, the new conditions created by COVID-19 – and the need to reduce human interaction in public places – are making automation more attractive than in an ordinary recession. 

In-person human labour is becoming more expensive, due to safety considerations around space, PPE, and the ability to take time off to self-isolate, whereas machines and automated systems, in comparison, can be added without increasing infection risks, at a comparatively lower cost.

Longer-term changes in consumer behaviour could make a difference too, as more interactions shift online, meaning businesses are more likely to be considering automation than without the COVID-19 crisis.”

Jobs in the wholesale, retail, and financial sectors are most at-risk. These sectors represent nine percent of the workforce – around five million people – and Faethm estimates that the equivalent of 932,000 full-time roles in these sectors could be automated.

Faethm’s research finds that many staple UK jobs are at risk from automation and may cease to exist in the future. However, around 382,000 jobs could be created by the introduction of new technologies.

As the country rebuilds from the pandemic, Faethm wants to see a focus on where AI can augment human jobs rather than replace them. Automation can handle more of the routine, mundane, and less enjoyable daily tasks while humans can focus on areas machines struggle with such as creativity, compassion, and interpersonal skills.

(Photo by Lyman Gerona on Unsplash)

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