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Over 55s most likely to lose their jobs to robots, study finds

Robot
Robot

Staff aged over 55 are more likely than any other group of workers to lose their jobs to robots, the first study of its kind has found.

The research by University College London (UCL) economists found nine in 10 workers aged over 55 were made redundant as robot technology replaced humans for “routine” tasks.

By contrast, 70pc of younger workers kept their jobs after retraining and switching to higher skilled more “abstract” jobs either within their own firm or another business, according to the study of 16,000 firms employing millions of staff.

It follows industry estimates that as many as 10 million UK workers are at risk of being replaced by robots within 15 years as the automation of routine tasks gathers pace.

The report by consultants PWC found that 30pc of jobs in Britain were potentially under threat from breakthroughs in artificial intelligence.

The UCL researchers suggested that companies were ditching over 55s because they calculated they would get less “pay back” from investing in retraining them as they came to the end of their working careers.

They also believed that older workers might also find it more difficult to learn the new skills required after firms implemented automation.

Companies which ran apprenticeship schemes and involved unions in training were most likely to safeguard the jobs of workers under 55 as they introduced robots to reduce costs and boost efficiency.

Common transitions from a routine to an abstract occupation included switching from a warehouse worker to a technician or data processing specialist; or from a warehouse administrator to a consultant or data processing specialist.

The researchers from UCL, Glasgow and Hanover universities said more than a third (37pc) of the workers surveyed were in “routine” , and 18pc in manual jobs and 45pc in “abstract” more skilled jobs.

Those in professional higher skilled jobs earned around 33pc more, while wages in routine and manual occupations were roughly similar.

The researchers concluded: “Neither employment in a (previously) abstract occupation nor a university education appear to cushion the adverse career effects on older workers [of automation].

“Rather, our results support the notion that investing in new skill acquisition may be less worthwhile for older workers close to retirement, as the pay-off period to any investment is short.”