Fresh evidence has emerged that the rise of the robots has been overestimated, with Office of National Statistics figures revealing that far fewer jobs are at risk of automation than previously thought.
In 2017, out of the 19.9 million jobs analysed in England, 7.4% (1.5 million) people were employed in jobs at high risk of automation. This marked a fall of 0.7% or 46,000 employees less than in 2011.
Meanwhile, the number of employees who were in jobs at low risk of automation in 2017 was 5.5 million, equating to 27.7% of all employees, a rise of 2.4% since 2011.
The ONS found that the three occupations with the highest probability of automation are waiters and waitresses, shelf fillers and elementary sales occupations.
In contrast, the three occupations at the lowest risk of automation are medical practitioners, higher education teaching professionals, and senior professionals of educational establishments.
The ONS report said that the exact reasons for the decrease in automation are “unclear”.
Although it pointed out that it is possible that some jobs have already been affected. For example, supermarket self-checkouts are now common and reduce the need to have as many employees working at checkouts.
In addition, while the overall number of jobs has increased, the majority of these are in occupations that are at low or medium risk, suggesting that the labour market may be changing to jobs that require more complex and less routine skills.
Even so, Maja Korica, associate professor of organisation at Warwick Business School, says that the speed at which the biggest players are introducing changes should be a concern.
"If you take a company like Amazon, it introduced more than 50,000 new robots in 2017, a 100% increase from the previous year. Estimates suggest 20% of its workforce may already be made up of robots.
"There are powerful incentives for other firms to do the same. These robots can work 24/7, 365 days a year, do not have unions, and do not complain or carry associated costs such as an acceptable working environment.
"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.
"Policymakers and business leaders need to be thinking about how they work together to deal with these problems."