Bank of England economist claims ‘thousands of UK jobs at risk’ from robots and AI

Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, has today warned on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that artificial intelligence and robots pose a greater threat to long term employment than the industrial revolution.  Haldane said that previous industrial revolutions had “a wrenching and lengthy impact on the jobs market, on the lives and livelihoods of large swathes of society”, but that the fourth Industrial Revolution would have far more impact.


Mr Haldane added:

“That hollowing out is going to be potentially on a much greater scale in the future, when we have machines both thinking and doing – replacing both the cognitive and the technical skills of humans.”

The economist said some jobs will be created as a result of the new technology, with roles that focus on human interaction, face-to-face conversation and negotiation becoming more important, but he believes that simple manual jobs will be more at risk.

Haldane is not the only leading figure to express concerns.  Earlier this year, the think tank Centre for London warned that almost one-third of jobs in London have high potential to be carried out by machines within the next 20 years, and today’s comments echo the findings of a PwC report last year which claimed that up to 30% of the UK workforce were potentially under threat.


Tara O’Sullivan, CMO at Skillsoft expressed concern that women would be more affected than men by the changes, and called for more employers to offer more education.  Tara says:

“It will be women who bear the brunt of the implementation of these technologies.  According to estimates by the Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis, twice as many women as men will lose their jobs because women are typically working in areas that are most likely to be automated.  We’re talking jobs like cashiers, office and administrative roles.  

“The World Economic Forum also identified that in absolute terms, men will face nearly 4 million job losses and 1.4 million gains, approximately one job gained for every three jobs lost, whereas women will face 3 million job losses and only 0.55 million gains, more than five jobs lost for every job gained.  

“How do we start to fight back?  It’s all about education.  I believe it is the employer’s responsibility to reskill and upskill their employees.  We cannot allow millions of women to be laid off without offering an alternate career.  We need to provide employees with access to learning which they take can take at their own pace, where and when it suits them, and offer them various options of how to learn – including videos, ebooks and audiobooks. 

“I believe in the future the most successful employers will have the best learning solution as part of their offering.  Just like companies talk about their pension, health insurance or vacation policy to attract the right talent, it will become necessary for companies to demonstrate how to grow your skills.”

However, not everyone shares the view that AI is a huge risk.

Tom Dixon, Head of Technology at Hiscox, only last week told Employment News that tech stands to create more jobs than it threatens:

“…Technology has, over the past hundred years, created more jobs than it has destroyed, and there’s no reason to imagine that the next hundred years will be any different.”

HubSpot co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah has previously said he thinks bots and AI will make us better at our jobs and more secure in our careers, not the other way around.

Leslie Willcocks, a professor at the London School of Economics, also told the Huffington Post that the move to greater automation in the workplace could be beneficial for employees, saying that companies that use AI for “monotonous” roles could then place workers in “more interesting” and “rewarding” positions.