New research by PwC shows that robotics, drones, driverless vehicles and other digital innovations will lead to a major shakeup of the labour market, delivering a net increase of 14,000 jobs over the next two decades. The firm's latest Economic Outlook predicts the creation of 558,000 new jobs and the loss of 544,000.
This prediction assumes that the UK will avoid a 'hard Brexit' when it leaves the European Union in March 2019.
Looking 10-20 years ahead, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) should deliver faster productivity growth, with a positive net impact on employment.
AI capabilities will allow businesses to deliver the same or improved products at lower cost and these savings should be passed on to customers to keep companies competitive. Increasing demand will lead to further job opportunities.
Labour-saving technologies should also improve the quality of existing products and allow new ones to be brought to market more quickly, creating the need for additional employees.
Looking at where the UK economy will benefit from these changes, the study suggests that Scotland will enjoy the third highest increase in employment of the 12 UK nations and regions, with the largest net increase in jobs including health (+22%), professional, scientific and technical services (+16%) and education (+6%). Conversely, manufacturing (-25%), transport and storage (-22%) and public administration (-18%) are expected set to sustain the largest net decrease in employment. The analysis predicts that 46% of annual long-term economic growth will come from the application of AI.
Kenneth Gibson MSP, who led a Holyrood debate on this issue on 18 April commented:
“These figures are cautiously more optimistic than some of those we have seen from other sources and, clearly, AI offers a huge potential economic boost. However, the margins of error and the huge loss of jobs across some sectors are a cause of concern, particularly to people working in them.
“The Scottish and UK Governments need to address these concerns head on. The PwC research highlights where the biggest impacts will be and which areas are most vulnerable. Government and businesses must work together to how best to help people adapt and develop the new skills that will prepare them for the future.
"I urge Ministers to study the PwC research and that of BT and others to become familiar with AI and its implications. Rapid economic and social change is upon us and the challenge must be met.”