Automation threatens 1.5 million UK jobs, says ONS

Waiter and waitress jobs are the most likely to be phased out, along with shelf fillers and salespeople

The effects of automation have already been felt in some industries, notably retail where the number of checkout assistants dropped by more than a quarter between 2011 and 2017
The effects of automation have already been felt in some industries, notably retail where the number of checkout assistants dropped by more than a quarter between 2011 and 2017

Around 1.5 million people in England are at high risk of losing their jobs to automation, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Women occupy seven in 10 of the roles at high risk, with those working part-time and the young likely to be the next hardest hit.

The ONS looked at the jobs of 20 million people and found that 7.4 per cent were at high risk of being replaced by machines, algorithms or robots.

Waiter and waitress jobs are the most likely to be phased out, along with shelf fillers and salespeople.

Medical practitioners, higher education teaching professionals, and senior professionals in education were deemed to be least at risk.

Tamworth, Rutland and South Holland in Lincolnshire are the areas most exposed to automation, the ONS said.

In part this is due to a high proportion of farm workers, whose jobs are more likely to go to robots, according to the analysis. Camden in north London has the smallest proportion workers at risk.

The effects of automation have already been felt in some industries, notably retail where the number of checkout assistants dropped by more than a quarter between 2011 and 2017.

The ONS predicts that higher levels of education will protect man and woman against machine in the jobs market. Those living in London and the South East and people currently in their 30s are also relatively safe.

“The risk of job automation … is lowest for workers between 35 and 39. Just 1.3 per cent of people in this age bracket are in roles at high risk of automation,” the ONS said.

Four legged robots skillfully open door at futuristic Boston Dynamics lab

The proportion of jobs thought to be at risk from automation has fallen from 8.1 per cent in 2011 to 7.4 per cent in 2017. Jobs will also be created in other areas

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said: “The workers most at risk from automation are the same workers already badly hit by austerity. Workers and trade unions should take charge of the changing economy, not be its casualties.”

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