7th July 2016
“We are the children of a technological age. We have found streamlined ways of doing much of our routine work. Printing is no longer the only way of reproducing books. Reading them, however, has not changed.”
Lawrence Clark Powell
It has been suggested that the United Kingdom’s lead in the Industrial Revolution was due to a more relaxed view towards the impact of technology on jobs. Many European countries kept restrictions in place to protect jobs and lagged behind Britain in terms of economic growth.
Recent advancements in technology are undeniable and unavoidable. There has been great debate surrounding the impact that these changes will have on employment. Many hold a negative stance however, the tide is beginning to turn towards the benefits that can be reaped by technology in the workplace. Economists such as Nick Bloom hold the viewpoint that long-term unemployment is not caused by technological advancement. Recent research by the likes of Deloitte have explored this subject in-depth and interesting findings have been drawn.
Firstly, the term “automation” refers to a manufacturing or other production system that relies heavily on the use of automatic equipment. It has been predicted that 35% of jobs in the UK will become automated within the next two decades. However, certain sectors are more at risk than others.
Within the UK job market, it is thought that retail, administrative, secretarial and postal occupations are most at risk. This may be a frightening thought, however once explored further, technology can prove to be beneficial. It is foreseen that net job growth will occur in professional and management occupations. Technological advancements will help to develop high-risk categories into sought after careers.
Technology affects the job sector as a whole at task level. Although the predictions surrounding technology may appear to abate certain sectors of the job market, it can simply change the nature of the job. Productivity of the workforce can be enhanced dramatically through a synergetic relationship between employee and technology.
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Academics have identified certain aspects of human nature that technology cannot adopt such as creativity, social intelligence, perception and manipulation. Jobs that require social interaction and higher-skilled cognitive inputs are now in greater demand. Careers involving management, digital know-how, creativity and entrepreneurship are expected to prove lucrative.
These higher-skilled occupations have resulted in the workforce increasing their salary by an average of £10,000 per annum in relation to the jobs that they replace.
Businesses within the UK have an optimistic view of the effects that technology has on industry. Although a Deloitte survey found that 41% of headcount reduction has been the result of automation, it is thought that this result will not be correlative with intended growth of businesses. Nearly three-quarters of businesses plan to increase their headcount until 2019, and only 5% intend to reduce. The majority of businesses hold the view that technology aids a flexible workforce.
For example, it has been found that higher broadband speeds have had an impact on the flexibility of the workforce. Employees no longer have to be existent in the physical office space. They can work from home, in a different region or country. This dissolve in physical restraints can also lead to a happier work force. For example, 43% of workers believe that flexible working would help them with stress.
On first perception, technology can appear to be detrimental to the existing human workforce. However, it allows a higher-skilled, productive and flexible workforce to be created.