Innovation

Automation Puts Public Sector Jobs ‘At Risk’

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Sixteen percent of public sector jobs likely to be replaced by robots, study finds

Hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs could be automated by 2030, according to business consultancy Deloitte, resulting in a reduction of up to £17 billion in wage costs.

In its latest The State of the State study of public sector finances and conditions Deloite found government jobs are in some ways more resistant to automation than other sectors, due to the fact that many jobs involve education and health care or require public interaction.

Jobs at stake

women code database programming tech © Semisatch ShutterstockAll the same, up to 861,000 public sector jobs, or 16 percent of the workforce, have a high probability of being automated by 2030, Deloitte said.

That compares to 74 percent for transportation and storage, 59 percent for wholesale and retail and 56 percent for manufacturing.

Overall, the 1.3 million administrative jobs in which activities are the most repetitive and predictable are the most likely to be automated. Those roles make up 27 percent of the workforce and have a 77 percent probability of being replaced by robots.

Roles requiring personal interaction, 2.6 million jobs or 52 percent of staff overall, have a 23 percent chance of being automated, Deloitte said. Those jobs include teachers, social workers and police officers.

Finally, jobs such as finance directors and chief executives, 1 million roles of 20 percent of the workforce, had only a 14 percent chance of being replaced by technology.

In a more fine-grained analysis of particular job types, Deloitte predicted a drastic fall in the numbers of local government administrative roles, which have fallen from 99,000 in 2001 to 87,000 in 2015 and are projected to drop to only 4,000 by 2030.

Health jobs at risk

The number of care workers and home carers, which rose from 213,000 in 2001 to 331,000 in 2015, is projected to drop to less than half that number to 151,000 by 2030.

Deloitte predicted the number of health care practice managers, which previously grew from 8,500 in 2001 to 10,000 last year, would plummet to a fraction of that at only 2,000 jobs.

Other public sector job types are likely to remain relatively stable, with nurses falling by only 8,000 jobs to 266,000 during the period studied, Deloitte said.

“Automation will not displace employees overnight, its impact is gradual and manageable and there could well be social or political resistance to the full deployment of technology in place of people,” stated Deloitte global head of public sector Mike Turley, adding that automation has also created higher-skilled jobs.

Deloitte argued the findings show it will become increasingly important for the public sector to attract staff with social and cognitive skills.

“A larger portion of the public sector will need to undertake complex, judgement-based problem solving and customer service as machines take over repetitive, administrative tasks,” Turley said.

The World Economic Forum predicted in January automation would lead to the loss of 5.1 million jobs over the next five years in 15 major countries.

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