Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Never Mind Immigrants – Robots are Taking Over


Tech Advances in the UK Threatening Workers

Despite overwhelming evidence that immigrants are not taking jobs away from born and bred Brits, it has been a contentious topic for several years, even after Brexit. The truth is that it has nothing to do with foreigners. In fact it’s more likely that robots will threaten British jobs.

The Rise of the Machines

A couple of years ago Oxford University, Deloitte and the Oxford Martin School published a report that hints at as much as 35% of existing jobs in the UK are at risk of being eradicated by robotics, automation and technology within 20 years. What’s more is that lower paid jobs are five times more at risk than jobs in the higher salary bracket. Is the middle class about to be effectively hollowed out by tech? Angus Knowles-Cutler, senior partner at Deloitte states that imminent changes should be completely understood by companies and policy makers and preventative steps should be taken, or there will be a serious risk of mass unemployment. More recently the numbers have started looking even more dismal. The right-of-centre thinktank Reform purports that as many as 250,000 public sector workers are at risk of losing their jobs to robots in less than 15 years. According to this report machines will be more efficient and save billions of pounds. 

Not all Doom and Gloom

Progress is inevitable and not always a bad thing. Two hundred years ago a large chuck of the population lived on farms. Today all but about 1% of their jobs have been eliminated and replaced with automation - even farm animals have been replaced by machines. Yes, doctors and nurses could lose their jobs to machines that can outperform them with diagnoses and surgical procedures, but this kind of increased performance could save lives. The Oxford report also revealed that over 70% of businesses in London have concrete plans to increase staff numbers with the aim of bringing in new skills to accommodate planned advances in technology, and this was already in place two years ago. Is Knowles-Cutler correct in saying that this is simply a matter of educating the masses to prevent disaster? Is it a problem that politicians should solve, or does the tech industry have a social responsibility to tackle issues associated with the rise of the machines? These are only some of the many questions that are begging to be asked as it is fast becoming a reality.