Women at greater risk from automation, says report

Women are at greater risk of losing their jobs due to automation, says a new study.

Supermarket retail

 

Women, particularly those in part-time jobs, are at more risk of automation, according to an Office for National Statistics survey which shows 1.5m people are in jobs at high risk of automation.

The ONS study is based on an analysis of the jobs of 20 million people in England in 2017. It suggests that 7.4% are at high risk of automation.

Automation involves replacing tasks currently done by workers with technology, which could include computer programs, algorithms, or even robots.

The study shows that 46,000 fewer employees were in jobs with a high risk of automation when compared with 2011. Conversely, the number of employees that were in jobs at low risk of automation in 2017 was 5.5 million, equating to 27.7% of all employees, a rise of 2.4% since 2011. The ONS speculates that this pattern may be evidence that the labour market is already adapting to automation, for instance, it cites the move to self-service checkouts.

The study looks at those whose jobs are most at risk due to automation. It says women account for 70.2% of employees in jobs at high risk of automation. This compares with women accounting for 42.6% of employees in jobs at low risk of automation.

Part time work

Other groups at risk are those working part time and younger people. People in part-time positions account for 69.9% of all employees in jobs at high risk of automation. This compares with just 11% of jobs at low risk of automation being held by part time employees. Younger people are more at risk too, but the share of people in jobs at high risk of job automation decreases as workers get older – due possibly to workers gaining experience and skills, says the ONS – and the probability of automation is lowest for workers between 35 and 39 years. Just 1.3% of people in this age bracket are at high risk of automation. Interestingly, the risk then increases from the age group 40 to 44 years upwards.

The ONS says: “We can partially explain the increase in the risk of automation from the age of 35 years with the change in working patterns, particularly for women. From the age of 30 years, more women work part time, and this increases until women reach the age of 50 years, when it then steadily drops down. People who work part time are more likely to work in roles at a higher risk of automation, but ultimately your occupation determines the probability of automation, not your working pattern.”

Higher education

Those with degrees are less likely to be at risk. From the jobs at low risk of automation, 87% were held by employees with a degree, while employees with lower education than GSCEs and those with A level or GSCEs made up most of the jobs at high risk of automation, 59.8% and 39% respectively.  The report says that as the proportion of employees in high-skill occupations increases, the probability of automation decreases.

It looks at which jobs are at lower risk of automation and says those with keywords relating to management, planning and advisory skills are seen to be the most prevalent in tasks involved in low risk occupations. Health-related words such as patient and treatment also appear frequently. The ONS says: “These words reflect working with people and represent the value added by humans in these roles, which is difficult to computerise.”

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