Quarter of young workers’ jobs may vanish
Automation could mean staff cuts for thousands
ALMOST 28 per cent of young workers’ jobs could be at risk of being lost due to automation in the next 15 years, it is claimed today.
The claim is made in the annual PwC’s Young Workers Index published today and shows the UK to have reached its highest ever position, in 18th out of 35 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
It says that while new technologies will create many new jobs, educating and training young people to enable them to move flexibly between careers as technology evolves will be critical.
The risks of automation appears to be highest for young men with lower levels of education, particularly in sectors such as transport, manufacturing and retail.
The risk will be felt across the world, with many leading nations seeing a far higher risk.
In America, the figure is 39 per cent while in Germany it is 38 per cent.
John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC UK, said: “Empowering young workers to succeed in an increasingly automated world will be crucial to the longterm success of the UK economy.
“The government has already taken positive steps in recent years with initiatives to boost vocational training and apprenticeships, but an increased focus on STEM skills will help to close the technology gap with leading international economies and maximise the economic and employment benefits of automation.”
This year the UK reached its highest position since the index began in 2006, climbing to 18th out of 35 OECD countries from 20th last year.
The UK’s improvement reflects lower youth unemployment and NEET rates as the economic recovery from the financial crisis has continued, but it still lags behind many other OECD countries, with Switzerland, Iceland and Germany leading the pack.
Currently, nearly a quarter of 16 to 24 year-olds (24 per cent) in the UK are employed in the wholesale and retail jobs sector where the potential risk of automation could be as high as 44 per cent.
Workers within this sector also tend to have lower educational attainment and qualifications, potentially limiting their ability to move flexibly between industries and into new jobs in response to automation.
Transport and manufacturing are other sectors facing high risks of automation, particularly for male workers with lower education levels.
In contrast, PwC analysis finds only around 5 per cent of young people are employed in industries with a high requirement for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills, which could be long term beneficiaries of new digital technologies such as AI and robotics.
Jon Andrews, head of technology and investment at PwC UK, said: “As new technology advances bring innovation we need to be careful that the impact of this is progressive and does not create barriers.
“Businesses have a critical role to play in creating the jobs and helping the UK workforce build the skills of the future.”