Millions of jobs in the UK are under threat from automation, with retail set to be one of the sectors most dramatically affected by the transition.
According to the latest study from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 7.4 per cent of the UK’s workforce, representing around 1.5 million people, are at risk of losing their jobs to an automated machine.
Those forecast to be worst hit are supermarket checkout staff, which have already seen a 25.3 per cent reduction between 2013 and 2017, while other retail staff like inventory restockers and entry level sales staff will also be among those worst affected.
Women hold a disproportionate amount (70.2 per cent) of the roles classed as at “high risk” by the ONS, while males ages 35 to 39 represent just 1.3 per cent.
(The ONS has created a chat bot for those concerned about the future of their jobs)
“It is not so much that robots are taking over, but that routine and repetitive tasks can be carried out more quickly and efficiently by an algorithm written by a human, or a machine designed for one specific function,” the ONS said.
Warwick Business School’s associate professor Maja Korica added: “What is most concerning is the speed at which the biggest players are introducing these changes.
“If you take a company like Amazon, it introduced more than 50,000 new robots in 2017, a 100% increase from the previous year. Estimates suggest 20% of its workforce may already be made up of robots.
“Policymakers and business leaders need to be thinking about how they work together to deal with these problems.”