HR · 30 May 2017

Employees cite threat of automation among greatest risks to job security

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The threat of automation was considered more pressing than immigration or Brexit

UK workers are more concerned about losing their job to a machine than through outsourcing or immigration, according to new survey findings.

The nationwide survey, by job site Indeed, asked workers what they considered the greatest threats to job security, and results revealed a gap in priorities between employees and political leaders.

Respondents cited the falling value of the pound as the greatest threat to their job, fearing employers would inevitably reduce their workforce, while Brexit sat outside the top three fears after automation and outsourcing.

However, leaving the single market and ending free movement was still a considerable fear among employees. Only a third believed the labour market would strengthen after Britain left the EU.

Respondents were also more concerned they’d face unemployment after an employer moved abroad for a better trading environment than lose work through immigration.

The main threats to job security cited by employees:

1.    Falling value of the pound
2.    Automation
3.    Outsourcing
4.    Brexit
5.    Globalisation
6.    Immigration
7.    Changes to the benefits system

Commenting on the findings, Mariano Mamertino, an economist at Indeed, suggested the current election campaigns had largely ignored the potential threat of automation to job security.

Politicans, he said, lagged employees in recognising the threat of automation to jobs.

“These results show that the average worker is much more unnerved by the prospect of being replaced by a machine and companies moving jobs abroad, rather than competition from immigration. With net migration to the UK falling in 2016, workers are perhaps ahead of the politicians here,” Mamertino said in a statement.

Mamertino explained the difficult balancing act of harnessing the benefits of automation, while protecting the UK labour market. While some jobs would inevitably be swallowed by technological advancement, he pointed out these developments “underpin overall economic growth”.

“These are labour market shifts that have an uneven impact on workers and regions, and politicians should demonstrate long-term thinking on jobs and employment in order to tip the balance in favour of the workers who will be hardest hit,” he added.

“Disappearing jobs can be a frightening concept and it’s impossible to know exactly which jobs are ‘safe’.”

In a message to employers, Mamertino stressed the importance of developing “transferable, non-routine skills” within their workforce that could be applied across varying sectors.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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