Northern workers most at risk from robots

Written By: Ian Hernon
Published: February 11, 2018 Last modified: February 11, 2018

The Centre for Cities has warned that workers in northern England and the Midlands are most at risk of losing their jobs to robots.

The think tank estimated that by 2030 nine areas could lose more than a quarter of jobs to automation and artificial intelligence (AI), with staff in shops, administration and warehouses most at risk.

The government has said it is committed to helping people secure “the jobs of tomorrow” with a national retraining scheme, and forecast that developing AI could create a net increase of 80,000 jobs a year.

But the Centre claimed that more than three million jobs across Great Britain could be lost instead, predicting that towns and cities with a “lower share of high-skilled jobs”, such as Mansfield, Sunderland and Wakefield, face losing nearly 30% of their current roles.

The think tank said sales assistants and cashiers accounted for about one in every six of the jobs at risk in Mansfield, while one in 10 posts at risk were in “elementary storage” roles such as warehouses, both of which are predicted to see big changes from robotics and AI. In Sunderland, almost one in five jobs at risk are in retail and one in eight are in customer services.

Areas with more higher-skilled jobs such as Oxford, Cambridge and Reading may also lose up to 15% of their current positions.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said robots could “compound” the north-south divide. “Automation and globalisation will bring huge opportunities, but there is also a real risk that many people and places will lose out,” he said. “We need to reform the education system to give young people the skills to thrive in the future, and we also need greater investment in lifelong learning to help adults adapt to the changing labour market.”

About Ian Hernon

Ian Hernon is Deputy Editor of Tribune