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An increasing number of industries are at risk of being automated and taken over by a robot or computer. Could you be affected, and how can you protect yourself and your income?
Which jobs will be affected?
A range jobs are at risk or already being automated, particularly those on manufacturing production lines around the world.
China’s ambition for a robot-focused workforce is already underway. For example, Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing giant behind Apple’s iPhone, has plans to automate 30% of its Chinese factories by 2020, stating that in the long-term robots are cheaper than human employees.
The cashier is an example of a role already on the cusp of being redundant, with the increase in self-checkouts in shops and supermarkets. Amazon is preparing to open checkout-free grocery stores in Britain, going one step further than self-checkouts in supermarkets. Customers won’t have to pay at a checkout at all, with sensors recording the items they take and charging to an Amazon Prime account.
According to research by Oxford University and business advisory firm Deloitte, more than a third of jobs in the UK are likely to be automated within the next few decades, with robots particularly adept roles that involve reading through reams of data, and writing up reports.
However, Deloite has previously found that all sectors will be affected by automation, with jobs at greatest risk including those in retail, transportation, storage and manufacturing. Telesales, data entry workers and financial managers could find robots replacing their jobs, but some workers in the public sector may also find their roles at least partly replaced.
Are any jobs safe?
Among workers safe from automation are those are employed in the world of sports, music and arts, including athletes and musicians. Computers do not have the skills to replace creative professions, and any role that involves a high degree of creativity or fitness isn’t likely to be taken over by robots.
Highly skilled professions are also likely to be safe, including architects, barristers, surgeons and scientists. Likewise, roles that involve a large degree of human interaction are unlikely to be taken over by AI, such as therapists and nurses, and fitness trainers, and child carers.
Any work that is as much about talking and human interaction as it is about getting a job done efficiently isn’t likely to be replaced by robots anytime soon.
The impact of automation
Robot replacement is expected to be gradual. However, members in the European Parliament have warned that countries must consider introducing a basic universal income to prepare for rising unemployment as a result of the technological revolution.
Switzerland has already put a national wage to the public vote in a referendum in June 2016, in light of work being increasingly automated. However, voters overwhelmingly rejected the proposal. This called for adults to be paid a monthly income, whether they worked or not, of 2,500 Swiss francs (£1,997).
A report by socialist MEP Mady Delvaux-Stehres, is expected to be put in front of European Parliament soon, urging member states to consider a general basic income in preparation for robots taking over people’s jobs.
The report also calls for the adoption of rules for how humans will interact with robots, and a vote on their legal status. It suggests that various forms of AI are set to “unleash a new industrial revolution, which is likely to leave no stratum of society untouched.”
Tips for future-proofing your job
There are several ways to prepare for a changing workplace, so you don’t find yourself without the skills to earn an income.
Life-long up-skilling: This is essential, according to the Future Foundation, which focuses on the rise of ‘liquid skills’ – which are flexible, continuously upgraded and easily discarded. They make dexterity for learning key to success in the future job market.
Employee development: Some larger companies are focused on developing their employees’ skills. Considering whether your employer will offer continuous development is worthwhile, to ensure you have the foundations to future-proof your career.
Pick a growing sector: Do you work in an area that is, for example, struggling to keep pace with digital developments? Focus on the bigger picture to ensure you will continue to have a role within your industry. This could mean developing core skills, or slightly changing direction.
Go digital: Keep up-to-date with changing technology. This could involve developing social media, search engine, or blogging skills – whatever helps you stay on track of developments.
Develop transferable skills: This applies even if they aren’t relevant for your current role. For example, if you have business skills, perhaps develop your knowledge of technology or learn another language. Developing a broad skill base could prove useful to secure a job with the rise of automation.
Go freelance: Would you be willing to go sole if needed? Increasing numbers of people are setting up their own companies and going freelance, and this trend is expected to continue.
It’s essential to be flexible – who knows what the future holds, and where the march of technology will end.
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