Twenty million factory workers could lose their jobs to robots by 2030, according to UK-based analysts, Oxford Economics.
In a report the firm said: “Robots are increasingly capable of performing tasks that were previously relied on human hands. This robotic revolution is propelled by technological advances in automation, engineering, energy storage, AI and machine learning. The number of robots in use worldwide multiplied three-fold over the past two decades, to 2.25 million.”
Repetitive tasks, such as putting together electronic circuit boards, are the most vulnerable to “robotisation” and 14 million out of the 20 million jobs which are expected to go will be in China.
The report said the most vulnerable workers are unskilled workers and those in the countryside, such as farmworkers and fruit-pickers.
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In Britain the most vulnerable areas were Cumbria, Lincolnshire and Shropshire - areas traditionally associated with farming - while the least vulnerable were London and the South East, where services and the financial industry rule supreme.
It said the same could be said for other cities which relied on service industries, such as Paris, Tokyo, Seoul, Frankfurt, San Francisco and New York.
The report added: “Regions that surround knowledge-intensive cities such as Toulouse and Grenoble in France, or Munich and Stuttgart in Germany, typically show much lower levels of vulnerability.”
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Oxford Economics said each new industrial robot wipes out 1.6 manufacturing jobs and they said increasing automation risks increasing income inequality globally.
The report said automation would create an extra US$5 trillion in additional global GDP, but it warned this could well end up enriching business owners and shareholders rather than nations as a whole.
But it is not just factory workers who are in danger - everyone from bank cashiers to journalists are under threat from mechanisation and artificial intelligence.
Oxford Economics said politicians, industrialists and trade unionists need to think about how to develop workforce skills to adapt to growing automation.
Politicians throw robots under the bus to avoid taking responsibility for the real problems they've caused in the economy. Boosts in productivity, whether through automation or training, are the key to rising wages for workers and prosperity for society. https://t.co/vhVILVGb4F— Manhattan Institute (@ManhattanInst) 26 June 2019
Since 2000 there has been a loss of 550,000 manufacturing jobs in China, 400,000 in Europe, 260,000 in the US as a direct result of automation.
Last month a report by the Canadian real estate firm Altus concluded British construction companies could turn to robot bricklayers because of concerns Brexit will reduce migrants available for work, along with trade unions demanding more pay.
Several politicians, including Bernie Sanders in the US, have argued that developed economies need to introduce the universal basic income (UBI) to cope with high levels of automation throwing people onto the scrap heap.
Louise Haagh, an associate professor at the University of York and chair of the Basic Income Earth Network, told Sputnik there was no evidence UBI would make them "lazy or unwilling to work".