Robots aren’t stealing our jobs, yet

By Oliver Smith 15 September 2015

Since 2001, we've actually created more jobs that aren't at risk from robots than we've lost to automation, adding £140bn to the economy in the process.

The fear that robots will one day take our jobs has always been intrinsically tied to the development of technology.

From the steam engine to driverless cars, people have worried that technology will reduce the amount of workers needed to do a job, before replacing the people entirely.

During the industrial revolution those fears even brought violence onto the streets of Britain when the Ludddites, protesting at the development of technologies in the textile sector, clashed with the army multiple times between 1811 and 1816.

Since the 1800s Britain’s workforce has advanced and modernised, but today there are renewed fears that robots are replacing jobs everywhere from behind the checkout to behind the wheel, are still rife.

Adapting to change

Over the last decade Britain’s workforce has adapted incredibly well by creating far more jobs that are at a low-risk of being replaced by robots and automation, than the number of jobs that have been lost from the process.

There have been 3.5m jobs created since 2001 in these low-risk sectors, like care services, teaching, and business project managers, while only 800,000 jobs have been lost to automation and robots since 2001, according to Deloitte.

Most of the lost jobs come from lower-skilled, more manual jobs like personal assistants, typists and bank or post office clerks, all of which generally pay less than the jobs which have been created in their place.

“Our work shows the automation of jobs – and a shift from brawn to brains – is well underway in every nation and region of the UK. But we appear to be benefitting from this, not losing out,” said Deloitte vice chairman Angus Knowles-Cutler, adding that the total impact of robots and automation on the UK has been a net gain of £140bn in value to the UK economy.

“Technology is replacing the high-risk, routine occupations in the UK economy but we are seeing good growth in the creative, caring and complex jobs at less risk of automation, as well as increased economic value from these.”

So, for now at least, your job is probably safe.