Automation is already claiming UK jobs: study

Research from job search engine Adzuna has found that almost two thirds of the fastest declining job roles in the UK are dropping due to automation. The report, The Start of the Curve, found that 13 of the 20 steepest declines were feeling the effects of increasing automation.

In order to judge the ways in which the job market is changing, the report analysed over 79 million UK job adverts from the previous two years to put together a record of nearly all UK vacancies advertised in that period.

Among the fastest declining roles were pharmacy assistants, travel agents and translators. Perhaps surprisingly, given the creative nature of the work, illustrators and writers also found their way into the top ten occupations in decline.

That’s not to say it’s all bad, however, as the study also noted that advancing technology is serving to create roles in other areas.

“The robots are not just coming, they are here already – in our pockets, workplaces and homes. Automation is already replacing jobs and could be set to replace some roles – like translators and travel agents – entirely. But, at least in the short term, AI advances seem to be creating new jobs just as fast,” said Doug Monro, co-founder of Adzuna.

“Tech is changing the shape of industries in more complex ways than previously predicted.  For example in the creative and design fields, previously feted as ‘robot-proof’, we are seeing that software and technological tools can help even the most creative of professionals automate tasks, find efficiencies in workflows, and change the way they work.“

Providing context for the study was the 2013 paper by Frey & Osborne, The Future of Employment, which made predictions as to what the coming years of UK jobs would look like. However, while the shifting nature of the job market is notable, Adzuna’s report found that jobs predicted to be extinct in 10-20 years still have some way to go.

Nail technicians, retail security officers and full stack developers all featured in the five fastest growing professions in the UK. As can be seen with the selection, the key drivers for growing roles that Adzuna identified were increases in disposable income spent on services, emerging technologies and rising demand for manual workers.

Notably, the same changing technology that is causing the decline of some roles is attributed to causing 25% of the fastest rising roles. While automation is undoubtedly causing a dent in large chunks of the job market, it’s opening up opportunities to be exploited elsewhere.

“The wave of technological innovation is undoubtedly gathering momentum, and Adzuna analysis suggests this force could well be set to significantly change the shape of the UK job market by 2040” James Neave, head of data science at Adzuna, concluded.

“Although no-one has a crystal ball on this, it looks likely a substantial portion of all desk-based jobs will become automated within the next 25 years.”

96% of accountants expect their jobs to be partly or fully automated by 2022

The vast majority of UK-based accountants expect automation to have a significant impact on their field in the very near future, according to research conducted by the accounting system provider FreeAgent.

96% of respondents said that they think either some or all of accountancy work will be automated within the next five years, with almost two thirds of accountants – 62% – saying that do not expect to be doing the same daily tasks within five years.

22% of those surveyed said that they thought that accountancy work would be completely or almost entirely automated by 2022.

“Our survey results suggest we are seeing a continuing shift in the landscape of the accounting profession,” said FreeAgent co-founder and CEO Ed Molyneux of the findings.

“Technology is driving new ways of working with clients, while forthcoming legislative changes such as Making Tax Digital and PSD2 will significantly accelerate the pace of automation.”

Only 3% of the accountants surveyed, who work across the UK both contractors and micro-businesses, thought that automation would have no impact at all on their jobs within the next five years.

The report, entitles Future of Accountancy, also found that the majority of accountants were considering or had already committed to retraining in light of these developments.

Such retraining would not be to move to another field, but instead to future-proof their current roles from the oncoming march of automation.

42% said they planned to retrain to keep their role, while 23% said they were considering it. Just 20% said that they did not expect to have to retrain at all to protect their job from automation.

The survey did not ask if any of the participants planned to move away from accountancy completely in light of automation.

Such retraining plans were welcomed by Molyneux, who argued that automation “should not be a cause for alarm”.

“Rather, these changes represent a unique opportunity for accountancy practices to grow their higher-value, advisory propositions and stay at the forefront of the profession – and it’s really positive to see that the majority of accountants we surveyed are not only recognising this shift, but are already starting to consider how they will adapt to the changes,” he said.

“The age of automation is dawning and the accountancy profession currently faces a choice over how to proceed. I firmly believe that forward-thinking accountants who embrace and adapt to this change now will be the ones who benefit most in the future.”

propositions and stay at the forefront of the profession – and it’s really positive to see that the majority of accountants we surveyed are not only recognising this shift, but are already starting to consider how they will adapt to the changes,” he said.

“The age of automation is dawning and the accountancy profession currently faces a choice over how to proceed. I firmly believe that forward-thinking accountants who embrace and adapt to this change now will be the ones who benefit most in the future.”