The 2021 UK Workforce Forecast from Faethm AI outlines the state of the UK jobs market and the employment challenges and opportunities faced by both businesses and the government, as automation continues to accelerate in the wake of Covid-19.
Faethm’s data indicates that many UK staple jobs may cease to exist in the future, and that intervention from businesses and government to retain, retrain and redeploy employees is critical to maintain or improve employment levels and increase productivity.
According to the research, the wholesale and retail and financial services sectors are most at risk of being automated, with a combined 9% of work (the equivalent of 932,000 full-time roles) being potentially automatable.
Adjusted for population differences, the regions with the highest proportion of work with the potential to be automated include Wales (5.3%), Northern Ireland (5.2%) and the North-West of England (5.1%).
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While over a million jobs could be automated over the next 12 months, according to Faethm AI, the research’s modelling suggests that 2.9% of work in the UK could be augmentable using technologies that are already available in 2021, alongside human workers.
If applied correctly, augmentation of jobs across the UK would result in a 1.3% capacity gain across the whole economy – meaning that work would take 1.3% less time to complete.
The IT and media sectors would gain the most, with 6.5% of work potentially augmentable, leading to a capacity increase of 3%.
As one of the country’s largest employers, the education sector would also see substantial benefits; 5% – the equivalent of 131,300 full-time roles – could be automated, delivering a 1.9% capacity boost.
While some jobs may change, decline or become less common as automating technologies begin to replace certain tasks, Faethm’s analysis predicts that plenty of roles will emerge and increase as the UK starts to embrace automation and augmentation.
The report forecasts that an additional 382,800 full time equivalent roles could be needed in tech-related roles if the UK workforce were to fully deliver on potential automation opportunities.
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“Even ordinary downturns tend to increase automation, as companies are tempted to replace expensive labour with cheaper automated systems,” said Nan Craig, data analyst at Faethm AI.
“However, the new conditions created by Covid-19 – and the need to reduce human interaction in public places – are making automation more attractive than in an ordinary recession.
“In-person human labour is becoming more expensive, due to safety considerations around space, PPE, and the ability to take time off to self-isolate, whereas machines and automated systems, in comparison, can be added without increasing infection risks, at a comparatively lower cost.
“Longer-term changes in consumer behaviour could make a difference too, as more interactions shift online, meaning businesses are more likely to be considering automation than without the Covid-19 crisis.”
James McLeod, vice-president EMEA at Faethm AI, commented: “Employers and employees alike need to change their perspective. The future of work is already here, and the introduction of technology does not affect work in a uniform way.
“We must acknowledge where it supplements existing work, and invest in a targeted reskilling approach that recognises the new roles technology is creating, and ensures human and machine labour complement one another.
“Doing so will not only help businesses add capacity and increase productivity, but also ensure they are looking after employees, making financially beneficial and morally responsible decisions, and creating a digitally adept workforce for the future.”