289,000 high street jobs have been lost over the last ten years in a substantial shift in the future of work, according to the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). The RSA's Future Work Centre think-tank says that client or customer facing roles such as cashiers, check-out operators, bank and post office clerks, and sales assistants are among the main professions to experience overall reductions in net employment. 81% of these lost jobs were held by women. By comparison professions such as computer programmers, finance managers, and van drivers, positions more likely to be held by men, have all seen major increases in growth.
These figures reflect the overall decline of the high street and the rise of e-commerce (such as Amazon) according Alan Lockey, head of the Future Work Centre, which published its findings on 30 December 2019. Lockey ascribed the shifts in professions as resulting from a range of factors such as austerity, ageing populations, and technological developments – including automation. “Technological change will transform the labour market yet further”, he predicted. The coming decade could therefore see an increase in jobs such as online reputation managers, data analysts, digital detox consultants, and behavioural scientists – especially as more private and personal data becomes publicly available.
As a result of these trends the RSA’s December 2019 report predicted four different scenarios for the UK by 2035. The "Big Tech" scenario sees rapid technological development and a fall in energy and transport costs but with rising unemployment and increased concentration of power among tech firms. The "Precision Economy" envisions a “hyper-surveillance” work environment, offering greater efficiencies as a result of increased monitoring of workers. The "Exodus Economy" foresees the UK reeling from another major economic downtown, akin to the 2008 crash, where further austerity results in a 'loss of faith' in capitalism and the emergence of workplace cooperatives. Finally, in an "Empathy Economy" technology will develop with the input of workers and unions and people's disposable income will be spent on "empathy sectors" such as education, care and entertainment.
The RSA was founded 260 years ago by a collection of reformers and innovators and today it is made up of 30,000 experts in the fields of science, technology, and business. The RSA’s Future of Work Centre was set-up following the review of the ‘gig economy’ for the Conservative government of Theresa May, by RSA chief executive Mathew Taylor who continues to advise the government on employment and labour related matters.