Almost half of Scottish jobs could be lost to machines in the next 10 years

You can take our jobs but you'd better improve our skills

A recent report from Public Policy Research Scotland has suggested that almost half of Scottish jobs could be automated in as little as 10 years.

According to the researchers by the time 2030 comes people are likely to be working for longer across multiple jobs for multiple employers rather than having a single career. 

This is because though the report found that more than 2.5 million adults in Scotland (nearly 80%) will still be of working age by the time 2030 rolls around, over 46% of jobs (around 1.2 million) are at high risk of automation. 

Skills gap

In order to respond to this, the IPPR said people in Scotland need to be given more training and career support when they’re midway through their working life as well as at the beginning. 

Though at the moment qualification levels in Scotland have been “steadily improving and are higher than levels in the UK as a whole”, the report noted that rates of in-work progression are much lower in Scotland than in the rest of the UK and pay rates have reduced to below those for the rest of the UK too.  

A big reason for this, the report suggests, is that there’s a big gap in mid-career skill provision in Scotland which employers just aren’t addressing. This “progression gap” results in poor career progression and when skills aren’t being reviewed or invested in, low-skilled workers especially find it hard to move forward. 

Unfortunately, it’s low-skilled jobs that are most threatened by increased automation. 

Another recent report from consultancy firm PwC found that across the whole of the UK more than 10 million jobs (around 30%) could be automated within the next 15 years, with the highest risk jobs being in the lower-skilled sectors of wholesale, retail, admin and manufacturing. This means that if skills provision isn't improved the proportion of jobs lost in Scotland is at risk of being relatively high.

As recently as December 2016, Glasgow airport introduced its first robot staff member called GLAdys, a version of the Pepper robot built by Aldebran and Softbank robotics.

As advances in AI and robotics continue, there have been a number of studies  that are assessing the potential risk and reward, weighing up job loss and creation potential. The Nobel-prize winning economist Robert Schiller has even suggested that the impact on the workplace over the next few decades is likely to be so great we should consider a “robot tax” to support those made redundant by machines.

The IPPR has suggested that the creation of an Open Institute of Technology could be a way to provide workers with the opportunity to increase their skills. According to director Russell Gunson, though the report found that Scotland is “the highest-skilled nation in the UK” its system doesn’t have enough provision for people who have started their careers. Employers are not investing to fill this gap.

To respond to the huge changes that are coming in the next few years he stated that Scotland will “have to focus on retrofitting the current workforce to provide them with the skills they need, to deliver the inclusive economic growth we wish to see.”

Without these changes, he added, “we could see changes to the economy harm whole sections of population, and whole communities, leaving many behind.“