Tech & Work

Robots will steal 15 million jobs in UK, widen gap between the rich and poor, report says

A new report from The Sutton Trust outlines the impact of robotics and automation on workers, pointing to lost jobs and a break in the 'social ladder.'

Robots are invading the UK, and they're going to steal 15 million jobs and widen the gap between the rich and poor, according to a new report from UK education charity The Sutton Trust. According to the report, published Wednesday, this will lead to a deterioration in social mobility.

The State of Social Mobility in the UK report examines how emerging tech trends and other factors will impact social mobility, which it defines as the ability to break "the link between an individual's parental background and their opportunities to reach their full potential in terms of income and occupation."

The 15 million jobs number actually comes from an earlier Bank of England study cited in the Sutton Trust report. The report does note that routine jobs are those at the highest risk of automation, and that jobs that aren't as easily defined by rules could be safe for a little bit longer.

SEE: Research: Automation and the future of IT jobs (Tech Pro Research)

Administrative and secretarial occupations are likely to be automated, as are jobs in customer service and skilled trades, the report said. Automation is likely to hollow out many opportunity for middle-class careers, making it more difficult for those in low-skilled jobs to move to a higher-skilled position, the report said.

While there's been much talk of retraining workers for new jobs maintaining robotics systems or automation programs, there will also be a stronger demand for soft skills in order to secure the available jobs. "This will advantage those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, who typically have greater opportunities to develop these skills," the report said.

However, the report noted, there has been an increase in STEM programs and opportunities for learning new skills through online courses or MOOCs. Additionally, the report cited other studies noting that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds tend to study STEM more than other popular subjects.

SEE: The truth about MooCs and bootcamps: Their biggest benefit isn't creating more coders [Free download]

The concern over automation replacing jobs is a hot topic in the tech and business worlds. While some argue that AI will eventually be able to do every job better than a human, others believe that automation technologies will simply eliminate some tasks, not necessarily entire jobs.

Still, the fears persist. The Sutton Trust report comes right on the heels of another report stating that some 74% of business professionals believe their job could be automated in some capacity.

What do you think?

Will automation really kill off millions of jobs? Tell us your opinion in the comments.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. A new report from The Sutton Trust said that, in addition to replacing 15 million jobs, robotics will widen the gap between the rich and poor in the UK.
  2. By hollowing out the middle class, it will be more difficult for individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to move up the social ladder.
  3. Other reports argue the validity of automation fully replacing jobs, but fears remain among 74% of business professionals that their job is at risk.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/Peshkova

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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