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December 11, 2018updated 23 Dec 2019 10:03am

2018 saw one in 10 employers automate jobs, as workers accused of “sticking our heads in the sand”

The last 12 months alone saw 12% of UK employers automate jobs by replacing them with some form of technology.

By Lucy Ingham

The last 12 months alone saw 12% of UK employers automate jobs by replacing them with some form of technology.

However, only one in 20 British workers are worried about losing their jobs in this way over the next 15 years.

This is according to a survey of over 2,000 people in the UK by Charles Towers-Clark, author of The Weird CEO: How to lead in a world dominated by Artificial Intelligence, who argued that this showed many people were in denial of the risks posed to their livelihoods by AI.

“Despite seeing people replaced with software in front of [our] own eyes, we are sticking our heads in the sand. Meanwhile, AI advances in leaps and bounds,” said Towers-Clark, who is also Group CEO of global IoT provider Pod Group and an international lecturer on the future of work.

Regional variation in job automation fears and reality

Notably, both fears surrounding seeing employers automate jobs and the reality of it happening vary across the UK.

Wales was above the national average for jobs lost to technology, with 14% of employers replacing workers with digital or hardware alternatives in 2018.

Meanwhile Northern Ireland saw this happen the least, with just 7% of companies automating jobs in the last year.

This is in direct contrast with fears surrounding job automation, which were highest in Northern Ireland and Scotland, both at 20%.

By contrast the Welsh were the least fearful, despite being the worst hit, at 16%.

Employees urged to prepare as AI set to automate jobs

While Towers-Clark was keen to stress that AI had significant potential for the future of work and beyond, he urged employees and their employers to be mindful of the reality and take steps in response.

“The future job market will be dominated by AI, so now is the time for both employers and employees to prepare for such a future,” he said,

“Of course, we should not fear AI to the point we stifle its development, but a little fear would be healthy as it would drive us to develop skills in areas where AI struggles, creating opportunities for AI and humans to work together in harmony.”

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