Yellow toy robot holding a one dollar note

The rise of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace is a hot topic at the moment, with the World Economics Forum naming it “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”. As someone that’s still got your whole working life ahead of you, how is the rise in technology going to affect your job and your career path?

Jobs will be at risk

Robots and automation are mainly used in fields which are commonly described as the 3 Ds, that is, tasks that are dirty, dangerous or dull. This means that the most jobs at risk are low-skilled, routine, highly structured, simple, and rule based, in environments that are static (unchanging) and structured (e.g. on fixed known routes). For example chess is easy for a robot because the operating environment, the chess board, is very simple and the rules are few and easily defined. Whereas ironing and making beds is hard for a robot because of the unlimited combination of shapes, sizes, appearance, and positions of clothes, sheets and blankets.

Citibank and the University of Oxford released a report entitled Technology at Work v2.0  in January which stated that 35% of jobs in the UK are at risk of being replaced by automation. (This can be compared to 47% of US jobs at risk, 77% of Chinese jobs at risk, and an OECD average of 57%). Furthermore calculations by the Bank of England estimate that one-third of jobs have more than 66% chance of being replaced. 

McKinsey Global Institute has estimated that by 2025, robots could produce an output equivalent to 40-75 million workers in both industrial and service roles. Companies like Google, Apple, Foxconn and Amazon are already investing heavily in robotics, and more will join them as technology advances. By 2017 there could be 2m industrial robots in operation worldwide. 

A report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch calculated that UK employees on £30,000 or less were five times more likely to be replaced by AI in the next 20 years than those paid in excess of £100,000.

This suggests that most of these jobs are low-skilled jobs, however there are some skilled jobs at risk. For example, currently the financial services are investing in "roboadvice" — algorithms that can recommend savings and investment products to someone in the same way a financial advisor would. Furthermore, it is thought that the chance of accountants being replaced by technology is a whopping 95%. 

Highly skilled jobs will be created

One very positive thing that the rise in automation and technology does create is more highly skilled employment. Employees will have to be able to manage and control their automation in the workplace, with a greater need for them to be able to use code and have other technical knowledge, while there’ll also be more need for engineers.

Rate of job loss

However, studies suggest that these new technologies are creating fewer and fewer jobs and it is likely that advances in automation and AI will destroy jobs at a much faster rate than it creates new roles.

Furthermore, the rise in robotics and automation to a workplace will benefit shareholders, top earners and the well-educated the most, as there’ll be an increase in corporate productivity and a demand for technical, highly-skilled roles.

People skills

Job least at risk from this rise in automation are those that deal with humans and emotional intelligence so if you are just starting out in your higher/further education perhaps it’s a good idea to think about working with people. You could be a nurse, personal trainer, counsellor or dance teacher!

Turning our back on automation

This rise in automation has come hand-in-hand with a rise in a certain sector of society looking for original goods and services. In this way, experiences matter more than things, and if you do buy any “stuff” it’s important to be hand-crafted and created individually.

Because of this demand there’s been an increase in people making, creating, crafting and developing new and interesting ideas, alongside a in micromanufacturers and platforms like Etsy where individuals and small companies can sell their goods. If you think you have a unique skill that everyone will buy into, this industry will give you food for thought! 

Eluceo’s rules of thumb

If you are still at university, school or college think about your future in terms of working with other people, in a technology-focused role, or something unique and individual, and that way you’ll be well placed to continue working when many jobs get taken over by robots and automation.