There have been various reports out this week on how job losses and Covid are affecting...read more
A new RSA report says automation has been rapidly accelerated due to Covid-19 and calls for targeted support for those industries most affected.
COVID-19 is “accelerating the rise of robots” and some hospitality jobs will never return, according to a new report.
The report from the Royal Society of Arts claims public caution about the virus will drive a demand for reduced interaction with people and create a boom in technology to perform tasks. It says that during the pandemic nearly five years’ worth of digital transformation has taken place in sectors such as retail, where there has been a steep rise in online sales.
It says: “The absence of a vaccine has meant that minimising human contact has been at the heart of attempts to manage the pandemic.”
It warns, however, that the Government’s response to the pandemic risks losing many ‘automation-proof’ jobs. It says the arts and entertainment, travel and tourism and the creative industries, are likely to be important areas for jobs growth in the future and need more support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although the report finds that industries with the highest level of furlough take-up are considerably more likely to be at risk of automation, it says this relationship is “far from straightforward”.
Not all industries hit by Covid are at high risk of automation and some that are may have been shielded from the impacts of the pandemic.
The report identities four broad clusters of industries along the axes of Covid-19 and automation risk. Those at high risk for both Covid and automation have high levels of young workers and are slightly more likely to be men, tend to be lower paid and are less likely to have higher levels of education. They include industries such as hospitality, sports and recreation and parts of manufacturing and construction.
Those with high Covid risk and low-medium automation risk are also more likely to be men overall, but are relatively well paid and have higher levels of education. They include industries such as air travel and tourism, creative arts and entertainment, architecture, film production, museums and culture.
Those with a low-medium Covid risk and a high automation risk are relatively gender balanced, tend to be lower paid and are less likely to have higher levels of education. They include some key worker industries such as retail, food production, residential care and postal and courier activities.
Finally, those with low Covid-19 and low automation risk are more likely to be women, tend to be well paid and have high levels of education. They include scientific research, healthcare and education as well as some male-dominated industries such as computer programming.
The report says ‘a one size fits all’ approach to developing policy recommendations won’t work and that different groups of workers will need very different kinds of support in the coming months.
It recommends targeted support to protect jobs at risk of Covid-19, saying the government should modify its Job Support Scheme (JSS) and introduce a two-track system based on the French ‘partial activity’ scheme. Alongside the existing national JSS scheme it says this would include an alternative pathway for businesses in the most at-risk sectors, with reduced employer contributions.
It also calls for transition services for workers at risk of Covid-19 and automation, modelled on Swedish Job Security Councils which would provide a transitional basic income to support workers financially as they retrain.
Finally, it calls for the introduction of personal learning accounts to futureproof roles in sectors at high risk of automation, particularly those that have experienced good growth since the pandemic.