Covid is Accelerating the Take-up of Job-Replacing Technologies

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Planning and Training Will Mitigate Against Job Losses as Robots Pick up the Covid-19 Slack Says Automation Boss

As a major report warned that the Covid-19 crisis is accelerating the take-up of job-replacing technologies, the CEO of a business that helps organisations automate said that planning and training is the way to cope with the coming changes within the labour market.

Jacques Bonfrer, CEO of Cardiff-based Bot-Hive, made his comments after the Fabian Society published its final report of the two-year commission on workers and technology entitled Sharing the future: workers and technology in the 2020s.1

The report said the impact will be felt especially among low-skilled workers and that “…without action millions of people now face greater insecurity, harder work and worse pay and conditions in the wake of the pandemic.”

Bonfrer said of the report:

“We can see that Covid-19 is accelerating the move to automation as industries have realised that robots, in a pandemic environment such as we are experiencing now, have inherent advantages over humans, mainly not suffering from illnesses and always being available.

“We should also not forget that virtually every major report on this subject points to the fact that each historical technology step change has actually increased the need for human workers. Technical revolutions have historically created new jobs and given greater value to other roles. The issue is, there is a gap between jobs being lost and jobs being created, and this is what we have to guard against. Employment can rise rapidly in such a gap.

“This is why we support the call for action, expressed in the Fabian report, for greater help from the UK Government to prepare workers for the coming changes. As the report suggests, there needs to be Work and Train guarantees for the unemployed. Using the Kickstart Scheme as a foundation, free training for the long term unemployed should be guaranteed by the Government.

“We also support the call for the UK Government, employers, trades unions, small businesses and self-employed representatives to form new social partnership institutions to work together on the adoption of new technologies in the workplace.

“Planning and training will also allow us to bridge the gap between job losses and job creation, but we have to put things in place now to help now, and not leave it until it's too late.”

The report began work in August 2018 by Community and the Fabian Society. The commissioners were Hasan Bakhshi, Sue Ferns, Paul Nowak, Katie O’Donovan, Roy Rickhuss, Professor Margaret Stevens and its chair, Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP.