News ID: 254881
Published: 1046 GMT June 26, 2019

Rapid robot rollout risks UK workers being left behind

Rapid robot rollout risks UK workers being left behind

British workers are being shut out of decisions over the rising use of robots in the UK economy, according to a report.

According to the commission on workers and technology, run by the Fabian Society and the Community trade union, almost six in 10 employees across Britain in a poll said their employers did not give them a say on the use of new technologies, the Guardian reported.

Risking a future where workers’ jobs get worse and people’s voices go unheard over changes in the workplace, the findings come as a separate report finds the use of robots in poorer regions triggers the loss of almost twice as many jobs as in wealthier ones.

In a study by the consultancy firm Oxford Economics, the rapidly growing use of robots is expected to have a profound impact on jobs across the world, resulting in up to 20 million manufacturing job losses by 2030.

Around 1.7 million manufacturing jobs have already been lost to robots since 2000, according to the study, including as many as 400,000 in Europe, 260,000 in the US and 550,000 in China.

The global analysis of 29 advanced economies found that each new industrial robot eliminated as many as 1.6 manufacturing jobs on average. In the lower-income areas of the nations in the study, this figure rises to 2.2 jobs, with 1.3 jobs lost in a richer area.

Cumbria is the place in Britain most at risk from job losses due to robotic automation, as well as parts of the West Midlands. London and the southeast are most insulated, Oxford Economics said.

A year on from the launch of the commission on workers and technology, chaired by the Labour MP Yvette Cooper, the early findings show that technological change has affected most people’s jobs, but workers are not getting a say when this happens.

In a speech in Liverpool on Wednesday evening, Cooper warned that the rapid rollout of new technologies could risk leaving workers behind.

“As technology changes our workplaces, it is workers who should be in the driving seat, but our research shows that workers are too often being shut out of decisions that affect both their working conditions and their enjoyment of work. If we fail to prepare, we face a future where jobs get worse and workers’ voices go unheard,” she said.

From a series of factory and workplace visits across the country to gather evidence, the two-year commission has heard that workers often feel powerless and frustrated about their lack of influence over tech decisions.

According to a poll for the study by YouGov, as many as 80 percent said the rollout of new technology had some impact on their current role over the last five years. However, around 58 percent of employees disagree with the statement “My employer gives me the opportunity to influence how new technology is used in my workplace”.

Despite fears over the rising use of robots in the workforce, while sounding an alarm that bad practice can damage working standards, the commission said many staff were positive about technology change.

There are hopes that job losses can be contained or that workers can move into new and more fulfilling roles in future. The World Economic Forum forecast last year that 133 million jobs globally could be created with the help of technological advances over the next decade, compared with 75 million that could be displaced.





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