Robots already taking over UK jobs, finds research

A new study reveals that UK jobs are increasingly coming under threat from automation, as technology slowly takes over processes.

Almost two thirds of the fastest declining job roles in the UK are dropping due to automation, according to analysis by job search engine Adzuna.

Adzuna’s comprehensive report, entitled ‘The Start Of The Curve’, identifies reasons behind the drop in demand for the fastest declining roles around the UK, with 13 of the 20 steepest decliners seeing the effects of automation.

The in-depth study, which quantifies the impact to date of technological advancement and increasing automation on the UK job market, analysed over 79 million UK job adverts from the previous two years. This represents a near-comprehensive record of all vacancies advertised in the UK during this period.

The country’s fastest declining roles include pharmacy assistants, travel agents and translators. Illustrators and writers also featured in the top ten declining occupations, showing the impact of technology-driven change even in creative industries.

On the other hand, nail technicians, retail security officers and full stack developers all featured in the five fastest growing professions in the UK, when it came to the number of vacancies being advertised.

Key drivers behind these growing roles are increases in disposable income spent on services, emerging technologies and rising demand for manual workers. A quarter 25 per cent of the fastest rising roles can be attributed to changing technologies and their impact on the UK labour market.

James Neave, head of data science at Adzuna, comments, ‘Using Adzuna’s unique jobs dataset has enabled us to complement recent studies which predicted the hypothetical effect of automation. Our white paper takes a different approach by quantifying the trends that we are actually observing in UK job vacancies in recent years.’

A sector study

On a sector level, the travel and creative and design industries showed some of the fastest declines, as technology changes the way both these sectors operate.

On the other hand, roles in hospitality logistics, and social work featured in the top five fastest-growing industries.

Doug Monro, co-founder of Adzuna, says, ‘The robots are not just coming, they are here already – in our pockets, workplaces and homes. Automation is already replacing jobs and could be set to replace some roles – like translators and travel agents – entirely. But, at least in the short term, AI advances seem to be creating new jobs just as fast.

‘Tech is changing the shape of industries in more complex ways than previously predicted. For example in the creative and design fields, previously feted as ‘robot-proof’, we are seeing that software and technological tools can help even the most creative of professionals automate tasks, find efficiencies in workflows, and change the way they work.

‘Employers and jobseekers alike will need to anticipate and react to this high rate of change or they risk being left behind.’

Are previous predictions coming true?

The study analysed recent job demand against the predictions made by Frey & Osborne in their widely reported 2013 paper ‘The Future of Employment’. Despite a significant shift in the types of advertised roles dominating the UK job market, the assertions made on which roles would face extinction with ten to 20 years show no signs of becoming reality just yet.

Monro concludes, ‘Our analysis found no correlation yet between these predictions and reality. However, it’s clear that technology is driving both the fastest decliners and risers, and this rate of change is only increasing. With the rise of computing power and artificial intelligence applications across many sectors (including AI-based job-seeking tools like Adzuna itself), the labour market is changing.’

Looking to the future

The report concludes that as the pace of technology accelerates, an increase is anticipated in roles declining due to automation and advances in AI. Demand for other jobs is expected to grow and new ways of working will emerge, leading to the creation of brand new roles.

In the next ten years these effects may balance each other out, but beyond this time frame it is predicted that overall employment may well see a decline.

Neave adds, ‘The wave of technological innovation is undoubtedly gathering momentum, and Adzuna analysis suggests this force could well be set to significantly change the shape of the UK job market by 2040. Although no-one has a crystal ball on this, it looks likely a substantial portion of all desk-based jobs will become automated within the next 25 years.’

Further reading on automation

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Freddie Halvorson

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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