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Automation risks exacerbating income inequality across UK, think tank warns

A rise in automation across a slew of industries could widen an already stubborn gap between the incomes of the UK's richest and poorest, a new report compiled by the Institute for Public Policy Research has warned.

In the study, the IPPR argues that the total level of wages associated with jobs that have the technical potential to be automated in the UK is around £290bn annually. That represents around 33 per cent of all wages and earnings from labour in the economy. It also found that low-wage jobs have a greater potential to be automated than high-wage jobs, and that income inequality is therefore likely to be exacerbated as automation gains momentum. "If automation leads to lower average wages or working hours, or loss of jobs in aggregate, a significant amount of national income could be transferred from wages to profits," the IPPR report states.

On the back of the report's findings, the IPPR is calling on the Government to manage automation so that the benefits and threats to the labour market of the future are balanced. It said that the more rapid adoption of digital technologies should become an integral part of the Government's industrial strategy and that Westminster should strive to make the UK the most digitally advanced economy in the world by 2040 - in order to be able to combat the challenges presented by automation. 

Finally, the IPPR said that the UK's skills system needs to better equip people to complement automating technologies and help them to be able to retrain where jobs are lost. It said that the apprenticeships levy should be turned into a so-called "productivity and skills levy", which firms can use to train employees for wider skills. A personal retraining allowance, the IPPR said, should also be introduced for workers who are made redundant.

Overall, though, the IPPR said that there was no evidence that automation of the workforce was about to lead to the emergence of a so-called "post-human" economy in which robots take over the majority of jobs. It said that automation actually has the potential to lead to productivity gains because jobs will largely be reallocated rather than eliminated and new sources of wealth will be created. In fact, the think tank projects that - if managed effectively - automation could raise productivity growth by between 0.8 to 1.4 per cent annually, in turn boosting the UK's gross domestic product by 10 per cent by 2030. 

Source: Independent 


Päivitetty/Updated: 28.12.2017

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