Retail is among the sectors identified as facing the biggest risk of jobs being automated – or replaced by robots – in the next 15 years, according to a new study.
Up to 2.25 million jobs in retail and wholesale – the industry that employs the most people in the UK – could change rather than disappear over the next decade as robots are increasingly used, a PwC report says.
Along with retail, jobs in transportation, storage and manufacturing are also likely to be automated, while education, health and social work face the lowest risks.
In total, around 10 million jobs could be automated by the early 2030s, the report said.
It added that while a third of existing jobs could face automation, new artificial intelligence (AI) technologies could boost production and generate more jobs.
The UK also has fewer jobs at potential risk of automation than in other countries such as Germany, the US and Japan.
“A key driver of our industry-level estimates is the fact that manual and routine tasks are more susceptible to automation, while social skills are relatively less automatable,” PwC chief economist John Hawksworth said.
“That said, no industry is entirely immune from future advances in robotics and AI.
“Automating more manual and repetitive tasks will eliminate some existing jobs, but could also enable some workers to focus on higher value, more rewarding and creative work, removing the monotony from our day jobs.
“By boosting productivity, a key UK weakness over the past decade, and so generating wealth, advances in robotics and AI should also create additional jobs in less automatable parts of the economy as this extra wealth is spent or invested.
“The UK employment rate is at its highest level now since comparable records began in 1971, despite all the advances in digital and other labour-saving technologies we have seen since.
“It is not clear that the future will be radically different from the past in terms of how automation will affect overall UK employment rates.”