Automation threatens 15 million jobs in the UK, BoE warns

The Bank of England warns that automation could eliminate up to 15 million jobs across the UK in the coming decades. Administrative, clerical and production jobs are at highest risk.

Employment in Britain could be halved due to a “third machine age” which could bring mass automation, according to the central bank’s chief economist Andy Haldane.

Andy Haldane unveiled the research at the Trades Union Congress in London.

The conclusion was based on assessing how automation would affect existing jobs.

The bank classified jobs into three categories – those with a high (over 66%), medium (33-66%) and low (under 33%) probability of automation.

Haldane said: “For the UK, roughly a third of jobs by employment fall into each category, with those occupations most at risk including administrative, clerical and production tasks.

“Taking the probabilities of automation, and multiplying them by the numbers employed, gives a broad-brush estimate of the number of jobs potentially automatable. For the UK, that would suggest up to 15m jobs could be at risk of automation,”

He added: “Technology appears to be resulting in faster, wider and deeper degrees of hollowing-out than in the past. Why? Because 20th-century machines have substituted not just for manual human tasks but cognitive ones too. The set of human skills machines could reproduce, at lower cost, has both widened and deepened.”

Haldane said that automation will have an adverse affect on inequality, highlighting the fact that automation will mainly impact low-paying jobs. “Those most at risk from automation tend, on average, to have the lowest wage” he said.

Haldane pointed out that in response to the rise of automation there should be more focus on training people in areas where humans have a clear advantage, such as tasks requiring a certain level reasoning and creativity.

“In a world in which machines came to dominate tasks involving core cognitive processing, the importance of, and skill premium attached to, non-cognitive skills is likely to rise…yet our education system, at present, has a strongly cognitive slant” he said. “Perhaps in future that will need to change, with as much effort put into cultivating social CVs as academic ones.”