Transformers : How machines are changing every sector of the UK economy

Our latest report re-examines the impact of automation and robotic on work and employment. This time it shifts focus from the future of occupations to the outlook for industry sectors.


Using a similar approach and model to our previous research, we have identified those sectors of the economy that are most exposed to the risk of automation and its potential to replace human labour. The sectors that may be highly vulnerable to rapid advances in technology include some that are large employers of people today.

Our research suggests that:

  • The Wholesale and Retail industry has the largest number of jobs at high risk – 2.1 million. 
  • Transportation and Storage has just under 1.5 million jobs affected
  • Health and Social Care with 1.3 million.

However, the history of technology in the UK is unequivocally positive, with more jobs being created than destroyed, and new jobs are typically better paid and more highly skilled.

Transformers in manufacturing

Looking over the past 15 years, Deloitte analysed the jobs created and jobs lost within the manufacturing sector. In total 720,000 jobs were lost in manufacturing between 2001 and 2015, of which 650,000 had a high chance of automation. This was the largest decline across all sectors.

Although there has been a high portion of jobs displaced in manufacturing since 2001, this does not mean that the industry is in decline. Automation has been a major tool for manufacturers for decades, and it has improved productivity and reduced costs, improving global competitiveness. The industry is now looking beyond just automating production and is examining disruptive technologies such as additive manufacturing (3D printing) and towards industry 4.0.

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