Could robots create better jobs rather than steal them?

Some 48% of employees think new technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) will positively benefit them by helping them to work more flexibly, according to a new report.

The ‘Humans vs Robots’ report, based on responses from 1,000 board level and senior decision makers and over 1,000 workers in 13 sectors across the UK and commissioned by worforce solutions company Adecco, looks at the potential impact robotics and AI will have on the workplace.

Two-thirds (65%) of employees say they think that overall, technology has increased the number of jobs available to them. For the world as a whole, the majority (54%) also believe that advances in technology will continue to create more jobs than it destroys over the next decade.

Dr Carl Benedikt Frey, Co-Director and Oxford Martin Citi Fellow, Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment, said: “In many ways, robots could enhance careers rather than destroy them. The introduction of automation in the workplace will usher in a time where our jobs will become more creative and involve more social interaction. Although robots will render some occupations obsolete, as technology has in the past, humans and robots will also complement each other in many tasks, creating new types of jobs.”

Alex Fleming, Managing Director, Adecco UK and Ireland, adds: “Far from the widespread fear that automation will make employees redundant, our research shows that the workplace of the future could create opportunities for more flexible and fulfilling work. Many organisations and employees are buying into the idea of flexible working, but struggling to implement the reality. Our research suggests that robots could be a significant part of the solution.”

A large proportion of workers (87%) across the UK think that computers will make their role easier within the next 10 years and of these, more than half (57%) think their jobs can be made a lot easier. This belief was particularly high in the IT and telecoms sector, in which 68% of respondents agreed. What’s more, 58% of UK workers think that the introduction of robots in the workplace will give them greater scope to choose to work on more valuable projects by allowing robots to take on the more routine jobs.

Neverthless, in order to face up to the challenges of the future, employers almost unanimously (95%) agreed that upskilling will be essential. Almost two-thirds (62%) of them believe it to be the single most important factor in preparing people for the workplace of the future.

The report says organisations need to be ready to re-train, deploy and recruit the necessary workers to ensure humans and robots can work harmoniously. It also calls for an investigation into new ways of working that will afford employees greater flexibility.

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