Study says 850,000 UK public sector jobs could be lost through automation

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Research by Oxford University and consulting giant Deloitte finds 77 per cent probability of ‘repetitive and predictable’ roles being automated.

More than 850,000 public sector jobs could be lost by 2030 through automation, according to a new study.

The research conducted by Oxford University and Deloitte, found that the 1.3m administrative jobs across the public sector had the highest chance of being automated.

Although administrative jobs would be the first to go, the research suggests that elements of teaching, policing and social work could also be automated, allowing the government to either free up more staff for frontline work or reduce the number of workers on the payroll.

The research is included in Deloitte’s ‘state of the state’ report, which analyses the state of public finances and the challenges facing public services.

Deloitte’s study shows that all sectors will be affected by automation in the next two decades, with 74 per cent of jobs in transportation and storage, 59 per cent in wholesale and retail trades and 56 per cent in manufacturing having a high chance of being automated.

However, in contrast to the doomsayers who predict mass unemployment, the firm has argued that over the last 140 years automation has created more work than it destroyed.

The report said many roles would be relatively protected, especially in education, the NHS and care industries, along with jobs that require interaction with the public.

But automation will be an attractive option for cost-conscious public sector management after the report found it could cut £17bn off the public sector wage bill by 2030.

Mike Turley, global head of public sector at Deloitte, said:

“We are already seeing examples of technology playing a role in the public sector. Robotic processes are supporting local government in their data entry, driverless trains are becoming more widespread and sensor technology is being used in hospitals and care homes to monitors patients and give nurses and carers more time for quality patient interaction.

“Automation will not displace employees overnight. Its impact is gradual and manageable and there could well be social or political resistance to the full deployment of technology in place of people,” Turley said.

“Our wider research on automation also shows that while jobs are displaced by automation, new, higher-skilled and better paying jobs are created as a result.”

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