Study reveals how automation will impact the construction industry


According to research conducted by consultant PwC, construction is expected to experience the third highest percentage of jobs replaced by automaton

In a report titled, Will robots really steal our jobs? PwC has identified three waves of automation between now and the mid-2030s: algorithm wave, augmentation wave and autonomy wave.

In the initial wave up to the early 2020s, relatively few jobs will be automated but financial services could be somewhat highly impacted.

Up to 30% of existing jobs could be impacted by the mid-2030s, with the transport, manufacturing and retail sectors predominantly affected. In construction some 40% of jobs could be replaced by automation across the three waves – with more than half of these most likely to be lost in the third wave as robotics take over routine tasks, the study identifies.

The research analysed the tasks and skills involved in the jobs of more than 200,000 workers across 29 countries, including over 5,500 workers in the UK.

The study proposes that more women will initially be impacted by the rise of automation, whereas men are more likely to feel the effects in the third wave by the mid-2030s. This is due to the types of tasks that are more susceptible to automation and the current gender profiles of employment by sector.

Transport emerges as a sector with particularly high potential for automation in the longer run as driverless vehicles roll out at scale across economies, but this will be most evident in the third wave of autonomous automation.

John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, said: “We don’t believe that automation will lead to mass technological unemployment by the 2030s, any more than it has done in the decades since the digital revolution began.

“In the long run, AI, robotics and related technologies should not only make a significant contribution to UK GDP of up to 10%, but should also generate enough new jobs to broadly offset the potential job losses associated with automation.

“But we should not be complacent about the coming waves of automation: there will be challenges to many workers to adapt to these changes through enhancing their skills and retraining for new careers in some cases. Governments, businesses, trade unions and educational providers will all have a role to play in helping people through this transition.”

In the final wave, PwC predicts that AI will be able to analyse data from multiple sources, make decisions and take physical actions with little or no human input. The share of jobs that could be impacted by automation is estimated to rise to 30% by the mid-2030s, as autonomous robots and driverless vehicles roll out more widely across the economy.

However, PwC predicts that AI and other related new technologies will also boost productivity, income and wealth.

PwC’s economic modelling suggests that this job creation effect will broadly offset the potential job losses associated with automation in the long run.

Euan Cameron, UK artificial intelligence leader at PwC, added: “Our research shows that the impact from automation and AI will be felt in waves, with more routine and data tasks hit first. But just because businesses and people aren’t feeling the impacts right now, there is no excuse not to start planning for the future.

“AI technology is getting more sophisticated every day and businesses need to understand how, where and when their people are likely to be affected in the future. Those that understand the risks and opportunities can start upskilling their people and adapting their businesses, rather than simply reacting when it’s too late.

Download the report here.



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