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Robots threaten the jobs of 635,000 workers in Kent

By KentOnline reporter

More than 635,000 jobs across the county could be replaced over the coming years by machines, government data has revealed.

In figures which underline the march of technology, the Office for National Statistics' data reveals in some parts of the county close to 50% of jobs are at risk.

However, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says while technology will replace some occupations it will also bring new and more technical jobs.

Scroll down to hear from Jo James from the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce

Although the rise of the machines is expected to eliminate thousands of traditional jobs, new digital skills roles will be created for humans instead
Although the rise of the machines is expected to eliminate thousands of traditional jobs, new digital skills roles will be created for humans instead

The figures reveal in Thanet 46,000 jobs, measured in 2017, could be partially or totally replaced by machines – 48% of the occupations in the area.

Of them, 71% were at medium risk, which means the probability of them being replaced by machines is between 30% and 70%.

Figures for Swale also saw 48% at risk – some 52,000 jobs.

An ONS spokesman said: “It is not so much that robots are taking over but that repetitive tasks can be carried out more quickly and efficiently by an algorithm or a machine.

"The risk of automation tends to be higher for lower-skilled roles for this reason."

Felicity Burch, the CBI’s director of innovation and digital, said technology was predominantly putting jobs held by women, and low-skilled occupations, at risk.

As technology improves, machines are increasingly taking over jobs previously done manually
As technology improves, machines are increasingly taking over jobs previously done manually

She said: “The picture is complicated, as ONS’s own analysis shows that some of the roles most at risk of automation saw a boost in recent years.

“Furthermore, we know that the more businesses invest in new technology, the more likely they are to create new roles.

“If we are to capture the benefits, there are two fundamental things to get right – encouraging further investment and making sure that people have the digital skills they need to get the new jobs that the future will bring.

It highlights a growing concern over a digital skills shortage in the county and a push by business leaders to plug the hole.

Last month, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership revealed it was co-ordinating the regional Digital Skills Partnership (DSP) which will bring together businesses, public sector organisations and the charitable sector to focus on how best to ensure the need for the skills is met across the south east.

According to the figures, Medway had a question mark hanging over 108,000 jobs – 46% of the occupations in the area – while Ashford could see 47% of jobs, around 37,000 workers, at risk.

Dover faced a threat to 37,000 (46%), Gravesham 36,000 (45%) Sevenoaks 32,000 (44%), Maidstone 59,000 (44%), Dartford 49,000 (44%), and Tonbridge and Malling 49,000 (44%).

Canterbury (50,000) and Folkestone and Hythe (38,000) could both lose 43% of their existing occupations while Tunbridge Wells could lose 42,000 jobs (41%).

The ONS analysed the jobs of 20 million people across England in 2017 and found that 7.4% were at high risk of being replaced.

And 70% of the roles at high risk of automation are currently held by women. People aged 20 to 24 years old are most likely to be at risk of having their job replaced, and low-skilled occupations, such as waiting or shelf stacking, face the highest risk.

Jobs requiring higher qualifications, such as medical practitioners and higher education teachers, are less susceptible to computerisation.

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