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UK ‘on the cusp, not in the midst’ of automation

Corby in Northamptonshire is the local authority area most at risk of losing jobs to automation, according to a new study.

Analysis by the think tank Localis and Sky News reveals more than 10,000 jobs are at risk in the town, more than 31% of the total workforce.

North Warwickshire is the second local authority area most at risk of automation, with over 30% of jobs at risk, and South Holland in Lincolnshire is third with 30.3% of jobs at risk.

The report claims the UK is ‘on the cusp, not in the midst’ of automation, and the areas most vulnerable are predominantly in the Midlands, while the least vulnerable areas are mostly in London.

Jobs in the advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs are ‘relatively safe’ from automation, it says, because they require more skills and dexterity than a robot is likely to provide.

But lorry driving and warehouse packing jobs are ‘likely to disappear very quickly’, it warns.

‘Their workers will struggle to find work in industries and occupations which necessitate skills that a robot cannot provide,’ the report states.

‘For these industries, there is less of a slide into automation than there is a cliff-edge. And for places with high levels of employment in industries most at risk of this cliff edge, there is an immediate imperative to devise policies for re-skilling the local workforce and re-orienting their economy towards more sustainable industries.’

The report also warns there are ‘hotspots of vulnerability’ in relatively prosperous areas, like Crawley, Hounslow and Hillingdon.

In particular, it warns that Crawley, which includes Gatwick Airport, has a large number of transportation, stage and administration jobs that could be at risk.

‘The impact of automation will not be uniform across one industry,’ the report says.

‘In manufacturing, for instance, lower-skilled jobs are far more likely to be automated. This means that a place like Leicester, where manufacturing makes up an eighth of employment and half of that is low-skilled, will be much worse impacted than Coventry, where manufacturing also makes up an eighth of employment, but only a fifth of which is low-skilled.’

In January, the think tank Centre for Cities claimed 3.6m jobs could be ‘displaced’ by 2030, with retail, customer service roles and warehouse jobs among those most at risk.

In a report, it added nearly one in 10 jobs in the UK are in occupations predicted to grow by 2030 and the emergence of new industries will bring new jobs, which currently do not exist.

But it said that all cities are likely to see an increase in jobs across both the public and private sectors, which will replace many lost to new technology.

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