New research analysing the impact of technology on the UK workforce finds that over one million jobs could be set to be automated over the next 12 months. 

A new report by Faethm AI investigates how the workforce will be impacted by automation, with around 1.4 million jobs at risk of being automated over the next 12 months.

This figure represents around 4.8 per cent of the workforce with different industries and geographies likely to be disproportionately impacted.

The research suggested that employers, as well as the Government, have a critical duty to retain, retrain and deploy employees in order to maintain or improve employment levels. The pandemic has pushed this to the forefront of the agenda during a period which has seen the number of people in employment plummet.

In particular, Faethm AI’s forecast predicts that sectors such as wholesale and retail as well as financial services are at the highest risk of being automated. These sectors are made up of 5 million workers with around 932,000 full-time roles being potentially automatable.

In addition, the report states that specific regional areas in the UK are also at higher risk of seeing automation take over jobs. Wales ranked highest with 5.3 per cent of its work having the potential to be automated, followed by Northern Ireland (5.2 per cent). In England, it was the North-West which was most likely to see jobs being automated (5.1 per cent).

However, there was also the suggestion that automation will give way to new jobs being created which will allow human skills to be utilised, leaving the routine, mundane tasks up to technology.

Specifically, the data outlined a 1.3 per cent capacity gain in light of automation, meaning that work would take 1.3 per cent less time to complete. In this scenario, automation would aid the IT and media sector (3 per cent capacity gain) and education sector (1.9 per cent capacity gain) the most.

Overall, an additional 382,800 full time jobs could be created as a result of a greater use of automation and technology, the report found.

Nan Craig, Data Analyst at Faethm, reflected on why organisations may be increasingly choosing to use technology instead of workers, especially during the pandemic:

In-person human labour is becoming more expensive, due to safety considerations around space, PPE, and the ability to take time off to self-isolate, whereas machines and automated systems, in comparison, can be added without increasing infection risks, at a comparatively lower cost. Longer-term changes in consumer behaviour could make a difference too, as more interactions shift online, meaning businesses are more likely to be considering automation than without the Covid-19 crisis.

Faethm’s EMEA VP James McLeod adds:

Employers and employees alike need to change their perspective. The future of work is already here, and the introduction of technology does not affect work in a uniform way.

We must acknowledge where it supplements existing work, and invest in a targeted reskilling approach that recognises the new roles technology is creating, and ensures human and machine labour complement one another.

Doing so will not only help businesses add capacity and increase productivity, but also ensure they are looking after employees, making financially beneficial and morally responsible decisions, and creating a digitally adept workforce for the future.

*This research is outlined in Faethm’s ‘UK Workforce Forecast 2021’ report. Faethm’s modelling works on the level of individual jobs, broken down into tasks. Using a framework of over 5000 jobs, broken down into over 24,000 tasks, it models the effect of 16 different types of technology on tasks employees are asked to fulfil as part of their job role.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.