POLITICS
05/06/2018 22:30 BST

Robots To Destroy 2.9m Working Class Jobs - And Tory Seats Will Be Hit Hardest

Labour MPs and activists warn automation will see more industry jobs lost than under Thatcher.

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Automation is on course to destroy almost five times as many working class jobs as the collapse of coal and steel in the 1980s, alarming new analysis predicts. 

The forecast, published by a group of Labour MPs and activists called Red Shift, paints a bleak picture of the future jobs market - and finds that Tory constituencies face the biggest threats.  

Studying OECD and House of Commons library figures, the research found that, while new jobs will be created, those on the lowest wages will be hit hardest by automation’s sweeping changes. 

The study says: 

  • Between 2.1 million and 2.9 million working class jobs are forecast to be lost - overwhelmingly in retail, transportation and routine manufacturing

  • More than 1 million jobs will be lost amongst the poorest 10% of UK workers (under £7.64/ hour) - that’s 32% of all low pay jobs

  • Amongst the bottom 25% of the jobs market, (under £9/ hour), 2.1 million jobs are at high risk of automation - around a quarter of low paid jobs - while almost no higher income jobs were deemed under threat. 

  • Tory seats in England will be hit harder than Labour seats, with 4.08 million jobs under threat lost in Conservative seats compared to 3.45 million jobs may be lost in Labour seats

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Liam Byrne says the analysis provides an opportunity for Labour if they can build a viable strategy for dealing with the rise of automation

Liam Byrne, shadow digital minister, said the predictions cast a dark shadow on the future of inequality.

On current trends, the top 1% is set to control an extraordinary 2/3 of global wealth by 2030 – up from 50% today. The rise of automation threatens to make the risk of big increases in inequality even higher, he said.   

Red Shift brings together Labour MPs and activists focusing on the changing nature of life in England and how the party can hang on to its support base there. 

Ahead of a Commons event to discuss the study, Byrne said: “We made terrible mistakes in the 1980’s when we let industrial change destroy jobs and communities. Yet we’re now on course to make the same mistake again. And once again, its the English working class at the sharp end.

“Everyone knows the change is coming. Five times more jobs may go with the rise of the robots, than through the end of coal and steel and most people think its going to harder to earn a decent wage or get a better job.”

Red Shift’s Job Market Analysis

Selected working class job categories at high risk of automation

 
 
    
 

Current jobs

Forecast level of automation

Potential job loss

Assemblers and Routine Operatives

266, 000

90%

240,000

 

 

 

 

Road Transport Drivers

945,000

80%

756,000

Mobile Machine Drivers and Operatives

168,000

80%

134,000

Elementary Storage Occupations

416,000

80%

333,000

 

 

 

 

Elementary Administration Occupations

198,000

90%

99,000

 

 

 

 

Sales Assistants and Retail Cashiers

1,457,000

63%

918,000

Customer Service Occupations

472,000

63%

297,000

Customer Service Managers and Supervisors

154,000

63%

97,000

Elementary Sales Occupations

130,000

63%

82,000

 

 

 

 

Total jobs lost through automation

4,076,000

 

2,956,000

    

Coal industry

  

290,000

Steel industry

  

325,000

Total

  

615,000

    

Automation job loss as proportion of coal and steel

  

 4.8x

 

He added: “Workers are clear: they want Government to help them retrain for a better future. So its time we Britain got its act together with a proper plan to help us earn a way to a better life in the years to come.

“We are now at a fork in the road. Unless we take dramatic steps now to help people adapt to changing technology then it’ll be impossible to reverse massive trends in rising inequality for the rest of the 21st century.” 

Labour MP Shabana Mahmood is set to chair the event in Parliament on Wednesday evening, which will also be attended by Dr Carl Frey, University of Oxford, Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment, Prof Rob Ford, University of Manchester, Prof Mike Savage, London School of Economics, Lucy Powell MP, co-chair of Red Shift.