It has been reported that as many as one in three jobs in London will be lost to automation by 2038.
That’s a shocking statistic, but what does this really mean – should candidates fear for their future, or recognise the opportunities that technology will present?
According to research conducted by Gartner, as many as 1.8 million jobs (a third of all jobs in the capital) will be replaced by robots by 2020. By 2025, it predicts that number will have risen even further. However, while there is no doubting that artificial intelligence (AI) will replace many manual tasks, it will actually create more new jobs than those that will be lost.
In fact, the research shows that an additional 2.3 million will be created within the next two years, with two million more added to the economy by 2025. Technology, it seems, is actually good for candidates, and the increased use of AI should be welcomed not feared. This isn’t anything new, though.
Indeed, history has shown us time and again that when new technologies enter the workplace, new job opportunities come into being. Take the Spinning Jenny as a case in point.
In the late 1700s, weaving was done by hand and was a slow, labour intensive activity. The Spinning Jenny effectively automated the process, and while the role of the traditional weaver had changed irreversibly, they adopted new skills to complement this new technology. Their role had evolved in much the same way as the telephone, motor car and modern-day computer prompted the evolution of a new breed of roles.
This is what AT&T also realised. In 2013, the telecoms giant sought to address their changing workforce needs. They recognised that almost half of its entire employee base was in jobs that are unlikely to exist by 2020, so they decided to retrain 100,000 of their 240,000 employees, rather than reduce their headcount over time. It was a bold move, and one that paid off.
AT&T wanted to retain the value and knowledge their people had, rather than lay people off. In doing so, the company has reported an increase in revenues, and since become listed as one of the top 100 employers in America.
The automation of jobs will certainly happen, but the pace of change will be much slower than many people suggest. While people are willing to embrace change, there are many roles that are uniquely human – many aspects of sales, marketing, finance and HR for instance are and will always be more effectively handled by people.
Yes, robots can mimic certain traits, such as critical thinking and problem solving. But empathy, emotional intelligence and that personal touch can only be provided by people. A jobless future because of the rise of the robots is the stuff of science fiction, rather than practical reality.
Machines will most certainly – and absolutely should – do much of the mundane and repetitive work. In doing so, they allow people to learn new skills, and perform those tasks that add greater value to the business.
About the author
Kate Allen is the MD of Allen Associates, one of Oxfordshire’s leading independent recruitment agencies, that specialises in Marketing, Finance, PA/Admin and HR roles. In the summer of 2018, Allen Associates launched their first London office, specialising in Marketing, HR and PA/Admin roles.