What will be the net impact of tech on jobs in the UK?

According to a new report, AI will displace many jobs formerly done by humans, but will also create many additional jobs.
2 August 2018

According to PwC, the impact of AI on jobs might be neutral overall. Source: Shutterstock.

Can artificial intelligence (AI) and related technologies really take away jobs from people?

Well, AI and AI-powered solutions such as robots, drones, and driverless vehicles are capital intensive but in the long run, are much cheaper, efficient, and thus better for companies aiming to compete and disrupt their competitors.

But technology also comes with its own set of challenges. It needs to be adopted into a business, customized, maintained, and updated. For that reason, unless AI systems get really advanced, humans will continue to have a commercially rewarding job.

As a result, the debate about whether or not AI will take jobs away from people continues. However, a new PwC study might put that to rest as it tries to evaluate the net impact of tech on jobs in the UK.

According to the study, AI and related technologies could displace many jobs formerly done by humans, but will also create many additional jobs as productivity and real incomes rise and new and better products are developed.

“We estimate that these countervailing displacement and income effects are likely to broadly balance each other out over the next 20 years in the UK, with the share of existing jobs displaced by AI (20 percent) likely to be approximately equal to the additional jobs that are created,” said the report.

Although the overall effect on UK jobs is estimated to be broadly neutral, the report suggests that there will inevitably be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ by industry sector.

The sectors that PwC estimates will see the largest net increase in jobs, in the long run, include health (+22 percent), professional, scientific and technical services (+16 percent) and education (+6 percent).

The sectors estimated to see the largest net long-term decrease in jobs due to AI include manufacturing (-25 percent), transport and storage (-22 percent) and public administration (-18 percent).

Although PwC estimates that the net effect of AI on jobs will be broadly neutral, it warns that there are many uncertain factors that could tip the balance towards more optimistic or pessimistic scenarios.

Policies, for example, boosting research funding for AI, ensuring competition is adequate to ensure productivity gains are passed on to consumers, and funding national retraining programmes for older workers could maximize the benefits to employees from the rise of AI.