A third of UK jobs to be replaced by robots and computers in next 20 years

Low-paid, repetitive roles are most at risk, following an established global trend for automated systems to replace human labour

Advances in robotics and computing could wipe out as much as a third of all UK jobs over the next 20 years, a new report has claimed.

More than 10 million roles are likely to be replaced by automated systems, with repetitive, lower-paid jobs (those earning less than £30,000 a year) five times more likely to be made obsolete than higher-paid jobs.

Experts said the trends identified in the report were already well under way, with “high risk” jobs identified in “office and administrative support; sales and services; transportation; construction and extraction; and production.”

Many of these professions have already been heavily affected by automated systems, with the report’s authors noting that in London 65 per cent of librarians have lost their jobs since 2001 and almost half of personal assistants and secretaries.

However, researchers also said that 40 per cent of UK jobs were at “low or no risk” – a percentage rising to 51 per cent in London – with ‘safe’ sectors demanding interpersonal skills such as healthcare and education; creative talent; or science and engineering know-how (after all, someone has to build those robots).

Angus Knowles-Cutler, a senior partner at Deloitte, warned that the study could exacerbate income inequality and create “a widening gap between the 'haves’ and 'have nots’”. However, he also added that the UK and London was better placed than most to deal with the changes.

“London has a lot going for it. It is the greatest high skills city in the world,” said Knowles-Cutler

University of Oxford professor Carl Benedikt Frey, who authored the report along with fellow professor Michael Osborne, added:  “Skilled cities like London are incubators for new ideas and products. With the right policies, London can be at the front-line in developing the next generation of digital technologies.”

The study builds on work done by Frey and Osborne into automation in the US jobs market in 2013. The pair concluded that in the US around 47 per cent of total employment was at risk.