Robot Revolution: Will Machines Take Your Job?

Robot Revolution: Will Machines Take Your Job?

One of the key questions about the coming robot revolution surrounds how it will impact on how we do our jobs - and whether some of us will have jobs at all.

One recent study suggested fears robots would end up taking many of our jobs have been overstated - and that machines have actually boosted workers' wages and the economy as a whole.

But a separate piece of research published in 2014 paints a far gloomier picture, claiming more than a third of all UK jobs are at "high risk" of being replaced by robots within the next two decades.

:: What has the effect been so far?

Two economics professors have studied the impact the machines have had on employment, and their findings painted a positive picture.

Uppsala University's Georg Graetz and Guy Michaels from the London School of Economics looked at productivity and employment in a variety of countries between 1993 and 2007 to see if the trepidation about the increased use of robots has been well founded.

The pair examined data on the use of robots provided by the International Federation of Robotics.

They also studied economic performance indicators across 14 industries and 17 countries, including the United States, Australia, South Korea and many European nations.

The professors found that "industrial robots increased both labour productivity and value added".

In the summary of their paper, they say that industrial robots raised nations' average growth rates by 0.37 percentage points and increased pay.

But while "fears that robots destroy jobs on a large scale have not materialised", low and middle-skilled workers could be threatened, the professors found.

There is "some evidence" robots led to a reduction in hours for low-skilled, and "to a lesser extent", middle-skilled employees, they claim.

:: What roles did they carry out?

Robots carried out tasks such as assembly, welding, harvesting and inspection of equipment and power structures at power plants between 1993 and 2007.

:: Great, but what about the future?

The key caveat in the report is the admission that as robots become more sophisticated their economic impact could change.

Research carried out by Deloitte, the Oxford School and the University of Oxford suggests that as that happens many people could lose their jobs.

:: Is there any idea of just how many jobs would be at risk?

A total of 35% of UK jobs are at risk of replacement within 20 years, dropping to 30% in London.

The team behind the 2014 study also found that lower-paid roles are over five times more likely to be replaced than higher-paid jobs.

They said advances in technology will likely lead to jobs that require repetitive processing, clerical and support services being replaced by those that need digital, management and creative skills.

The researchers also warned that if the "significant shift" in the labour market is not handled properly it could lead to a widening of the gap between rich and poor.

:: What jobs are considered to be "high risk"?

The jobs considered to be at high risk are those in office and administrative support, sales and services, transportation, production and construction and extraction.

:: And the low risk roles?

Jobs in skilled management, financial services, computing, engineering, science, education, legal services, community services, the arts and media and healthcare are seen as being "low or no risk".