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Ten million jobs could be replaced by robots

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Around 10 million workers are at risk of seeing their jobs taken over by robots over the next 15 years, according to a new report.

But the research from PwC said new artificial intelligence (AI) related technologies would also boost productivity and generate additional jobs elsewhere in the economy.

The report said up to around 30% of existing UK jobs were susceptible to automation by the 2030s.

Sectors such as transport and manufacturing were at the biggest risk with half of jobs at "potential high risk" of disappearing, according to the analysis.

Other areas such as education and health and social work were seen as less at risk.

A Siasun Robot and Automation Corporation robot simulates the use of a medical instrument on a model of a human skeleton at the World Robot Conference in Beijing

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Men - especially those with lower levels of education - were more likely to see their jobs automated than women, being more heavily represented in those sectors most under threat.

The research suggested automation related to AI and robotics would not necessarily reduce total employment in the long run.

But it could widen income inequality "because a greater proportion of the economic pie will go to those with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in an ever more digital economy".

John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, commented: "Manual and routine tasks are more susceptible to automation, while social skills are relatively less automatable.

"That said, no industry is entirely immune from future advances in robotics and AI.

"Automating more manual and repetitive tasks will eliminate some existing jobs, but could also enable some workers to focus on higher value, more rewarding and creative work, removing the monotony from our day jobs.

"By boosting productivity - a key UK weakness over the past decade - and so generating wealth, advances in robotics and AI should also create additional jobs in less automatable parts of the economy as this extra wealth is spent or invested.

What happens to industrial robots when they retire?

Jon Andrews, head of technology and investments at PwC, said: "There's no doubt that AI and robotics will rebalance what jobs look like in the future, and that some are more susceptible than others.

"What's important is making sure that the potential gains from automation are shared more widely across society and no one gets left behind."

The report is the latest to consider the impact of automation technology on jobs.

Research from the Reform think-tank last month suggested robots and computers could replace almost 250,000 public sector jobs over the next 15 years.

A poll in 2015 found more than six in 10 people in the UK believed the Government should protect jobs from being taken by robots.

The Bank of England has also warned of the risk to millions of UK jobs from automation.

2017.03.28 / 09:38
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