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.

Key takeaways

  • All industry sectors have roles that are at high risk of automation and also new roles that are likely to be created as a result of automation.
  • The Transportation and Storage, Health and Social Care, and Wholesale and Retail sectors have the highest proportion of existing jobs at high risk of automation.
  • The greatest increases in new jobs in the last 15 years have been in the Human Health and Social Work, Education, and Professional, Scientific and Technical sectors. The greatest fall in job numbers has been in Manufacturing.
  • The new jobs created in the Professional, Scientific and Technical sector pay significantly more than the new jobs created in Human Health and Social Work or Education.
  • While technology is on the whole likely to create more (and generally better-paid) jobs than it destroys, some industries are likely to lose more jobs to machines than the new technologies will create.
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