Is Your Job Safe From Robots?


In today’s turbulent job market, one of the key points of discussion is whether, and to what extent, technology will overtake human jobs, and the effect that the increased automation will have on the global job market.

We’re heading towards the fourth industrial revolution, which will see a rapid development of automation and robotics, which could inevitably cost millions of individuals their jobs in the coming years.

Here we discuss the industries in the UK that are most at risk, and what the government plan to do to combat this dramatic increase in technological advances and artificial intelligence in order to reduce the impact on those who are most at risk.

Technology is already part of our daily lives…

Many of us take technology for granted, we think nothing of paying for our food shopping at a self check-out, taking money from a cash point, spending our working days in front of a state-of-the-art computer or carrying our smartphones wherever we go.

We’ve grown increasingly accustomed to technology, and we’re open to technological advances in our everyday lives, however, many of us forget to address the impact that these advances could have on our working lives and environment.

Which industries are most at risk by robots?

A study published recently by PwC, claims that up to 30% of UK jobs are at risk to automation, artificial intelligence and robotics by 2030. However, as they state these jobs won’t simply disappear, the very nature of these jobs is susceptible to change.

The industries that are most at risk according to their study include the transport, manufacturing and retail sectors, those that involve human interaction such as education, health and social work are less at risk.

Technology and robotics has already been integrated into certain industries more than others. In industries like automotive and finance, the deployment of algorithms with machine learning are already providing benefits to productivity, accuracy and speed.

How will manufacturing be affected by the robot workforce?

The estimated proportion of jobs at risk from job automation in the manufacturing industry is 46.4% according to PwC’s study. Robotics have long been a reality in the manufacturing industry, since the 1960s industrial robotics have assisted humans in carrying out strenuous tasks to boost productivity and profit. However, John Gilbert, CEO at DHL Supply Chain, states that…

“Robots are on the rise, and both business leaders and employees need to understand this technology, and l look on it as an opportunity rather than a threat. The blurring of roles between man and machine is not a simple case of robots replacing the human workforce, history has shown that technology is a job creator.”

Therefore, although 30% of all UK jobs might be at risk of automation, it is highly unlikely that there is any need to panic.

If technology eradicates jobs, would we all be working today? With the dramatic technological advances of the past twenty years, we are benefiting from more jobs, better salaries and a far more productive workforce. Robotics and technology have been featured within manufacturing industries since the 1960s, automating menial tasks that are undesirable for humans to do.

Although, it has not stopped senior politicians wading into this highly topical debate. Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has plans to ‘tax robots’ as he believes that automation is a ‘threat’ to workers in the UK.

The labour leader believes that this tax should then be used to retrain those who lose their jobs because of new technology. Jeremy Corbyn states, “If planned and managed properly, accelerated technological change can be the gateway for a new settlement between work and leisure, a springboard for creativity and culture, making technology our servant and not our master at long last.

In the manufacturing industry, the advances in technology and robotics will place a large number of jobs at risk; and it is very important that companies pivot to ensure that they offer their workforce the necessary training to be able to harness new technology to improve their productivity.

How will health and social care be affected by the robot workforce?

According to a recent projection on the health and social care industry by market research company Frost and Sullivan, it is expected that by 2021 AI in healthcare will grow 40% on today to be worth £5bn globally.

The PwC report indicates that jobs which involve human interaction are least at risk from technological advances. It is likely that the increasing usage of AI, technology and robots within healthcare will improve the accuracy and efficiency of diagnoses. The human workforce however, will continue to be needed in order to manage, maintain and improve the technology within usage.

It is already a fact that technology and robotics are being used by human workers to offer advanced help to patients which could end of saving many lives. Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms are being introduced to robotic technology to help identify potential diseases and conditions. For example, the scientist Frank Rudzicz and his team have developed algorithm that can identify the severity of Alzheimer’s sufferers with an accuracy of 82 per cent.

Technology is health and social care can be used to analyse memory and speech impairment; more astonishingly these algorithms can also be used to predict emotions using complex algorithms. Rudzicz, an assistant in computer science at the University of Toronto, states that there are a wide range of regulatory issues with AI machines when diagnosing patients. He explains, “One of the main risks I see with AI in healthcare is people put a lot of faith into and discount other sources of evidence.”

The fact that AI technology in healthcare can’t be fully trusted reinforces the need for healthcare professionals to be employed, and trained to understand the best ways of interpreting the data to make an accurate diagnosis.

The impact of AI on automotive jobs:

The PwC report into job automation, suggests that Transportation and Storage is the industry with highest percentage of jobs under threat at 56.4%. This is due to the fact that these jobs are perceived as easier to automate than those in other industries.

In October 2016, a self-driving truck managed to successfully deliver a commercial shipment in Colorado USA, travelling a total of 120 miles to deliver 50,000 beer cans. This signalled a potential threat to the human workforce within the automotive industry.

However we’re yet to see a dramatic shift in logistics from major companies to further adopt self-driving vehicles. Whilst, a recent survey commissioned by the Royal Society, which evaluates the perceived risk and benefits associated with machine learning suggested that people in Britain are fearful of self-driving cars.

The greatest threat to the driving workforce is likely to be posed by self driving cars, which replace the need for human drivers. The fact is however, that the UK population perceive self driving cars as the highest threat in terms of social risks. This indicates that it may be some time before an entire workforce is replaced by technology.

Instead, it is more likely that technology will continue to improve navigation, and traffic prediction algorithms which improve the efficiency of the driving workforce. The real impact of robotics autonomously driving automobiles is yet to be felt.


Will technology overtake human jobs in customer service?

As with many other industries that we’ve explored in this article, customer service is an area where people fear that robots can replace human job roles. The scenario whereby customer service job roles will be completely replaced by robots is extremely unlikely; instead technology is likely to be used to complement human agents.

Large brands will be seeking to use technology as a means of empowering call centre staff to be more effective, and efficient, at providing an outstanding customer experience. Customer service roles require human employees to establish authentic connections and engagement with customers.

By forcing customers to interact with robots it will cause many problems for companies, as customers are likely to get frustrated at misunderstandings and often seek the assurance of a human voice when attempting to find a solution for an issue.

Technology such as speech analytics are likely to be leveraged by customer service departments for reviewing performance, and prioritising issues to deal with based on complexity or commonality. Furthermore, machine learning and natural language processing are likely to enable brands to identify key trends in customer conversations.

Of course, those who work within the customer service industry will have concerns over the longevity of their jobs among the rapid advances of technology, robotics & AI. This is why major brands are moving to reassure their employees that they will be retained; as seen by Aviva who recently asked its 16,000 staff if they felt a robot could do their job. The employees who responded with ‘yes’ are being retrained for another role at the company.

So how will the robot workforce affect jobs?

Throughout modern history, there has always been the fear that new technological advances will significantly affect the jobs in the firing line. The outlook for the foreseeable future is that new technology and robotics will affect a larger number of industries that previously, which was mainly in manufacturing and engineering.

We must remember however, despite the fact it is true that certain job roles will be affected, history tells us that these roles evolve to utilise the surrounding technology to achieve success across any industry.

As we continue towards a future with a greater impact from the robot workforce, Fish4jobs will continue to have the best range of jobs in manufacturing, engineering, health & social care and construction industries.