These are the jobs most at risk of automation according to Oxford University: Is yours one of them?

Automation of jobs through technological advances like Robotic Process Automation and Machine learning have been discussed for years, but recent technological advancements suggest that progress towards mass automation is accelerating and that we’re rapidly reaching a tipping point, with many businesses now augmenting (or beginning to replace) human workers with digital workers.

A recent report by PwC estimated that robots could take up to 30% of UK jobs as soon as 2030 while the Bank of England has estimated that 15 million jobs may be at risk.

Which jobs are at risk?

Researchers at Oxford University published a widely referenced study in 2013 on the likelihood of computerisation for different occupations.

Out of 700 occupations examined, the following were found to have a 99% chance of being automated in the future:

  • Data Entry personnel
  • Insurance Underwriters
  • Library Technicians
  • New Accounts Clerks
  • Tax Preparers
  • Cargo and Freight Agents
  • Telemarketers
  • Legal administrators

All these occupations share a predictable pattern of repetitive activities, the likes of which are possible to replicate through Machine Learning algorithms.

And which jobs are safe?

At the other end of the scale some occupations are very unlikely to be automated. These occupations have less than a 1% probability of being digitised anytime soon:

  • Recreational Therapists
  • First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers
  • Social Workers
  • Audiologists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Orthotists and Prosthetists
  • Healthcare Social Workers
  • Lawyers

These roles come from a mix of sectors but share a level of expertise that is only acquired after years of study. Many of them also require a level of human interaction and empathy that may take many more years for computer programmes to replicate.

Low income workers face redeployment

Most studies on automation currently stop short of saying that jobs will be completely eliminated by automation. Rather, workers will be redeployed.

The 2013 study from Oxford University concludes: “a truncation in the current trend towards labour market polarisation, with computerisation being principally confined to low-skill and low-wage occupations.

“Our findings thus imply that as technology races ahead, low-skill workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerisation - i.e. tasks requiring creative and social intelligence. For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills.”

Not every member of the current workforce will be able acquire these skills and automation will doubtless lead to many employment disputes. Many employers will no doubt choose to not replace specific roles when employees retire or leave the organisation, opting instead to deploy robots to back-fill jobs.

However, in the long run, automation should lead to productivity increases and potentially a workforce that is freed up from mundane and mindless tasks to perform more interesting value add work.

Having a bot assistant ‘on call’ on your desktop may well soon be the norm and be regarded as an employment ‘perk’, in much the same way as a mobile phone or company car once was. Now there’s a thought... can your business afford not to embrace the robot revolution!

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