No job is entirely safe as era of robots at work dawns

Two new reports have highlighted the ways in which a new generation of robots could transform the workforce, opening up opportunities while also threatening existing jobs. A study from Oxford Martin School claims that 35 percent of jobs in the UK are at risk of automation, and not necessarily those of the low skilled and unskilled. The study analyses which jobs commanding a salary of more than £40,000 are most at threat. It found that top of the “at risk” ranking are insurance underwriters, with a rating of 98.9 percent, followed by loan officers at 98.4 percent, motor insurance assessors (98.3 percent) and credit analysts (97.9 percent). A second report from think tank Reform suggests that robots should be proactively brought in to the workplace to replace 90 per cent of Whitehall’s 137,000 administrative staff with “artificially intelligent chatbots” by 2030, saving £2.6 billion a year.

The Work in Progress report also calls for smart machines and autonomous robots to do the job of 250,000 other public sector workers, including 90,000 administrators and 24,000 receptionists in the NHS. The report also estimates that 30 per cent of nursing work could be automated along with a similar proportion for doctors in some specialities. Alexander Hitchcock, the co-author of the Reform report, said: “Such a rapid advance in the use of technology may seem controversial, and any job losses must be handled sensitively. “But the result would be public services that are better, safer, smarter and more affordable.”

Meanwhile, Carl Frey, co-director of the Oxford Martin programme on technology and employment at Oxford University, said of his report: “While low-skilled jobs are most exposed to automation over the forthcoming decades, a substantial number of middle-income jobs are equally at risk.”

The Bank of England has applied the methodology developed by Frey and his colleague Michael Osborne to estimate that 15m jobs in the UK are at risk of automation, with 80m in jeopardy in America. The analysis identifies thirty job categories with a risk of automation of at least 80 percent, including accountants and auditors, technical writers, train and tram drivers and power plant operators. By contrast to the Reform study, healthcare dominates the list of 23 occupations with a risk factor of 1 percent or less. They include occupational therapists, physicians and surgeons, dieticians and nutritionists, psychologists, dentists, podiatrists and school psychologists.

Those at medium risk include detectives (33.6 percent), judges and magistrates (40.1 percent), economists (42.9 percent), historians (44 percent), computer programmers (48 percent), commercial pilots (54.6 percent) and personal financial advisers (58 percent).

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