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AI: a threat and opportunity to jobs?

A report by Infosys, meanwhile, finds faster growth in revenue at those organisations who are the early adopters of AI

Up to 30 per cent of existing UK jobs could be susceptible to automation
Up to 30 per cent of existing UK jobs could be susceptible to automation

Analysis by the professional services firm PwC in its latest UK Economic Outlook reveals that 30 per cent of existing UK jobs are susceptible to automation from robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) by the early 2030s.


This figure is lower than the US at 38 per cent and Germany at 35 per cent but higher than Japan at 21 per cent. The sectors which automation is likely to impact most are transport, manufacturing and wholesale and retail.


The analysis predicts, however, that automation could also boost productivity and wealth, leading to offsetting additional job gains elsewhere in the economy although it acknowledges income inequality may rise.


John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, commented: “A key driver of our industry-level estimates is the fact that 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.


He added: “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.


“The UK employment rate is at its highest level now since comparable records began in 1971, despite all the advances in digital and other labour-saving technologies we have seen since. It is not clear that the future will be radically different from the past in terms of how automation will affect overall UK employment rates.”


Despite the fear factor often associated with AI, a report published earlier this year by Infosys shows that early adopters are reaping rewards from it. The report, Amplifying Human Potential: Towards Purposeful Artificial Intelligence, revealed a clear link between an organisation’s revenue growth and its AI maturity.


Organisations which report faster growth in revenue over the past three years were also more likely to be further ahead when it comes to AI maturity. AI is perceived as a long-term strategic priority for innovation, with 76 per cent of the respondents citing AI as fundamental to the success of their organisation’s strategy, and 64 per cent believing that their organisation’s future growth is dependent on large-scale AI adoption.


While there are ethical and job related concerns – 62 per cent believe that stringent ethical standards are needed to ensure the success of AI – most respondents seem optimistic about redeploying displaced employees with higher value work. The majority, 85 per cent, plan to train employees about the benefits and use of AI, and 80 per cent of companies replacing roles with AI technologies will retrain or redeploy displaced employees.


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