Will robots steal our jobs? The potential impact of automation on the UK and other major economies
Our analysis suggests that up to 30% of UK jobs could potentially be at high risk of automation by the early 2030s, lower than the US (38%) or Germany (35%), but higher than Japan (21%). The risks appear highest in sectors such as transportation and storage (56%), manufacturing (46%) and wholesale and retail (44%), but lower in sectors like health and social work (17%). For individual workers, the key differentiating factor is education. For those with just GCSE-level education or lower, the estimated potential risk of automation is as high as 46% in the UK, but this falls to only around 12% for those with undergraduate degrees or higher. However, in practice, not all of these jobs may actually be automated for a variety of economic, legal and regulatory reasons. Furthermore, new automation technologies in areas like AI and robotics will both create some totally new jobs in the digital technology area and, through productivity gains, generate additional wealth and spending that will support additional jobs of existing kinds, primarily in services sectors that are less easy to automate. The net impact of automation on total employment is therefore unclear. Average pre-tax incomes should rise due to the productivity gains, but these benefits may not be evenly spread across income groups. There is therefore a case for some form of government intervention to ensure that the potential gains from automation are shared more widely across society through policies like increased investment in vocational education and training. Universal basic income schemes may also be considered, though these suffer from potential problems in terms of affordability and adverse effects on the incentives to work and generate wealth.