More than 10 million UK workers are at high risk of being replaced by robots within 15 years as the automation of routine tasks gathers pace in a new machine age.
A report by the consultancy firm PwC found that 30% of jobs in Britain were potentially under threat from breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI). In some sectors half the jobs could go.
The report predicted that automation would boost productivity and create fresh job opportunities, but it said action was needed to prevent the widening of inequality that would result from robots increasingly being used for low-skill tasks.
PwC said 2.25 million jobs were at high risk in wholesale and retailing – the sector that employs most people in the UK – and 1.2 million were under threat in manufacturing, 1.1 million in administrative and support services and 950,000 in transport and storage.
The report said the biggest impact would be on workers who had left school with GCSEs or lower, and that there was an argument for government intervention in education, lifelong learning and job matching to ensure the potential gains from automation were not concentrated in too few hands. Some form of universal basic income might also be considered.
Jon Andrews, the head of technology and investments at PwC, said: “There’s no doubt that AI and robotics will rebalance what jobs look like in the future, and that some are more susceptible than others.