Around 1.5m jobs have a high risk of automation, 13m have a medium risk of automation, and 5.5m have a low risk. © Getty Images/iStockphoto
Around 1.5m jobs have a high risk of automation, 13m have a medium risk of automation, and 5.5m have a low risk. © Getty Images/iStockphoto

Buyers face 42% risk of being automated

25 March 2019

Buyers and procurement officers are at a 'medium' risk of having their jobs replaced by automated technology, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In a report the ONS said there was a 42% risk of "some or all duties and tasks being automated". The ONS described this as medium risk.

Purchasing managers and directors were found to be at 30% risk of automation, which was categorised as low risk.

The study assessed the jobs of 20m people in the UK in 2017 and evaluated which jobs have a probability of becoming automated as some tasks and processes could be completed more efficiently by technology, such as algorithms or machinery, in the future.

The risk of automation is shown to be higher with low-skilled jobs and lower with high-skilled occupations. High risk is measured as above 70% probability of automation, medium risk is between 30% and 70%, and low risk is 30% and below.

Around 1.5m jobs have a high risk of automation, 13m have a medium risk of automation, and 5.5m have a low risk, according to the results.

High risk jobs have decreased between 2011 and 2017, from 8.1% to 7.4%. This is due to the large amount of jobs that have already been automated, such self-checkouts at supermarkets, suggested the ONS.

The youngest in the workforce have jobs with high risk of automation, with 45% of high risk jobs occupied by 20-29 year olds.

“It is not so much that robots are taking over, but that routine and repetitive tasks can be carried out more quickly and efficiently by an algorithm written by a human, or a machine designed for one specific function. The risk of automation tends to be higher for lower-skilled roles for this reason,” said the ONS.

“When considering the overall risk of automation, the three occupations with the highest probability of automation are waiters and waitresses, shelf fillers and elementary sales occupations, all of which are low skilled or routine.

“The three occupations at the lowest risk of automation are medical practitioners, higher education teaching professionals, and senior professionals of educational establishments. These occupations are all considered high skilled.”

CIPS said the profession faced a choice to embrace change or risk being left behind.

“The profession has been challenged for some time now to move away from a functional mindset to one embracing strategic and relationship building skills as some of the essential competencies required to manage procurement of the future,” said a spokesperson.

“So, we have a choice to make; we embrace the change with excitement and the development of new skills or we risk being left behind.

“Whatever our individual and personal appetite for change, embracing agility and resilience to cope with change and move these developments on will be the hallmark of a true professional of the future.”

Maja Korica, associate professor of organisation at Warwick Business School, said: “The traditional doctrine is that jobs will mostly move to the service industry where empathy and judgement are required. However, some of these traditionally better paid jobs, like lawyers, surgeons, and financial advisors, are increasingly targeted for automation too.

“It used to be the case that new technological advances brought new opportunities and often better paid work. That is no longer necessarily the case. What is most concerning is the speed at which the biggest players are introducing these changes.

“Policymakers and business leaders need to be thinking about how they work together to deal with these problems.”

Korica said it was estimated that robots made up 20% of Amazon's workforce.

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