UK lags behind on adopting workplace automation

workplace automation

A new report has suggested that UK government and businesses must step up efforts to manage the transition to workplace automation or the country risks being left behind in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

A report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) ‘The Automation and the Future of Work’, finds the UK’s slow place in moving to automation – the UK lags behind its G7 competitors in its adoption of robots – has allowed other countries “to steal a march in leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution and seizing upon the opportunities for economic growth and jobs.”

To ramp up the leadership and coordination needed to enable the UK to capitalise on these new technologies, the report urges the government to come forward with a UK Robot and AI Strategy by the end of 2020. The report outlines a series of measures which could be introduced as part of this strategy, to help support businesses, industries, and universities and boost the adoption of automation.

Rachel Reeves, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Committee, commented, “The switch to automation brings challenges for businesses and for workers, with fears for livelihoods or disruption to job roles coming to the fore. The real danger for the UK economy and for future jobs growth is, however, not that we have too many robots in the workplace but that we have too few.”

“For all the potential of the UK, and despite our excellent tech and research base, the fact is that we are lagging behind our international competitors in our adoption of robot and automation technologies. Productivity, economic growth, and ultimately job-creation and higher earnings, will flow to those countries that capitalise on these technologies,” Reeves said.

The report also finds against a ‘robot tax’, believing that such a tax would discourage take up of automation and that it would not be in the interest of businesses or workers in the UK. Rather, the report recommends the government brings forward proposals in the next budget for a new tax incentive designed to encourage investment in new technology, such as automation and robotics.

“The government should come forward with a UK Robot and AI Strategy to support businesses and workers as they manage the transition to a more automated world of work. This new Strategy must seek to get the right support in place, on issues such as skills, investment and training, to ensure that all parts of the UK share in the jobs and growth benefits offered by automation,” Reeves concluded.