The Inequality of Automation…What We’ve Been Reading This Week At Brand Genetics

According to a study by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) up to 1.5 million people in England have a “high risk” of losing their jobs in the near future thanks to automation. The roles most at risk were waiters, shelf-fillers and “elementary sales occupations” — which covers everything from sale assistants to working the checkout at Sainsbury’s. On the other end of the scale were medical practitioners, higher education teachers and senior professionals in education. There is a certain logic to this — the first group are relatively low skilled, routine jobs, whereas the second group require higher levels of education and training.

Any tasks that consists of routine, predictable operations can be automated. Amazon is leading the way. The retail giant introduced over 50,000 robots into their warehouses in 2017, double the amount of the previous year.

However, alarmingly 70% of the roles most at risk are currently occupied by women. This isn’t a case of misogynistic robots taking over, but it certainly highlights an inequality in the UK employment system.

Another group to be highly impacted by automation is the under 24-year-olds, where just under 16% are likely to lose their jobs. In fact, the under 30s and over 60s may also want to keep one eye on the machine revolution that is coming down the track.

Routine tasks are most at risk of automation

What is worse, is that many of these people — men, women, old and young — are likely to get an automated double-whammy!

On the assumption that they can find new roles, the chances are that these new jobs are also likely to be low pay, low skill roles. In other words, exactly the sort of role that is next on the automation to-do list.

It begs the question, what sort of attitude will the employers who are introducing automation likely to have towards the workforce that they are replacing. In an ideal world, you’d hope that they would be retrained and upskilled to face the new challenges that will inevitably come with automation. But that work should start now, today, not after the robots and algorithms have started chugging away.

Automation is an inevitable part of progress and here at Brand Genetics we are all about preparing our clients for the future. We would argue that organisations who disregard the contributions that humans can make for the sake of efficiency and cost-saving are missing a huge opportunity. It is those businesses that operate in a human-centred way, who exists with a careful purpose and minimize the collateral damage of their actions, that are most likely to succeed in the long-term because they’ll find themselves with the skillsets most complimentary to the rise of the machines!

Marc Edwards is a director at Brand Genetics, an insight and innovation agency specialising in human-centred insight and innovation. With nearly 20 years of agency and client-side experience, Marc is an insight and innovation specialist, with and a track record of driving value in brand and products through strategic planning and creative ideation.

Human-Centered Insight, Innovation and Trends from Brand Genetics

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