Resources: Blog Post

January 20, 2016

Will a robot take your job?

Once upon a time, there were things called “typing pools” – and they didnít involve water. Typing was a valuable skill employing tens of thousands of people. Until personal computers became a fixture on every desk, typing was performed exclusively by people in jobs dedicated to the task.

robot29Typists are in little demand today. With driverless cars soon to be a prospect, should we lose sleep over whether a robot will take our job?

In a recent speech,†Andy Haldane,†Chief Economist at the Bank of England, focused on the impact of automation on employment. Haldane describes our current experience as a, “third industrial revolution” driven by information technology.

While acknowledging economic data show a hollowing out of middle-skilled jobs and a widening distribution of wages, he argues that as the full fruits of information technology are harvested, we may be poised for exponential growth.

Some of the most important innovations of the coming decades are not the inventions themselves, but new ways of organizing work that are made possible by new technologies.

An amusing calculator on the BBC website helps to estimate the impact of automation on individual jobs. Not surprisingly, typists are at a 98.5 per cent risk of losing their jobs due to technological change. Chauffeurs should presumably take heed.

The results of the calculator are in keeping with global macro-economic trends. Turns out, the most lucrative jobs in the future will be those that combine technical skills with social intelligence; jobs requiring empathy, manual dexterity and creative originality are also relatively safe bets.

So for instance, hairdressers have a 32.7 per cent risk of being automated. I donít know about you, but I will never submit to a robot wielding scissors. Happily for me, project managers, how I earn my living, have a low risk of automation at seven per cent; economists, what I actually trained for, are a little less safe at 15 per cent.

Thereís really no need to lose sleep. Since the first industrial revolution in the mid 18th century, technology has substituted for labour. Though this undoubtedly causes short term pain, in the long term it has increased the standard of living remarkably. Consider that in 1901 approximately 200,000 people in England were employed washing clothes. Today, can we even conceive of life without a washing machine?

According to the calculator, the least likely profession to face extinction – at 0.4 per cent risk – is bar manager. Perhaps that is a British bias? Isnít it nice to know there will always be a place where everybody knows your name.

Check out the†BBC calculator†to find out what could be in store for your future.

Tracey WhiteAbout the author

Tracey White is a negotiator, mediator and coach who specializes in strategic planning, execution, business operations, and analysis.†She combines conceptual business acumen with a focus on metrics and data analysis to support evidence-based decision-making, planning and priority setting.†Her strengths include Enterprise Project Management, Workforce Planning and Balanced Scorecard.

Tracey can be reached at†tracey.white(at)

Filed under: change management, innovation, tracey white Tagged: change management, innovation, tracey white
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