500,000 workers at risk of being replaced by robots in Northern Ireland over next 10 years: report
Nearly 500,000 workers in Northern Ireland, from typists to bank clerks, will risk being replaced by technology over the next 10 years, according to a report today.
The knowledge economy index from Connect - part of Catalyst NI - said typists were at the highest risk of being displaced by technology, followed by bank and post office clerks.
But professions such as nursing and teaching were at the lowest risk of being displaced as a result of technological advances.
However, the report said that while tech and automation could replace workers, it also created opportunities - but cautioned that primary school children needed to be readied for a new era when many traditional jobs would be obsolete.
"The economics of supply and demand will create opportunity," it said. "Human beings have insatiable appetites for more things to do, buy and see. Automation will increase this by making goods more affordable, stimulating higher consumption, which in turn will increase the number of jobs and opportunities."
The annual index on the performance tech and science-related sectors also said a robust economic strategy was required to prepare the region for the growth of tech jobs. It said that while Northern Ireland was the second-fastest growing knowledge economy region in the UK, profits, salaries and productivity in the sector were slowing down.
Steve Orr, director of Catalyst NI - formerly the NI Science Park - said the tech sector was now at a fork in the road.
"The strength of our knowledge economy cannot be allowed to wither because we do not act on a well-indicated slowdown, particularly when re-focusing investment on automation and robotics will boost competitiveness and secure more jobs in the long term," he said.
"A major re-think is also required on how we prepare our young people for work, since 65% of today's primary school children will go on to jobs which don't currently exist.
"We have to look closely at the skills which support employment in this age of technology, such as complex problem solving, fluency of ideas, critical thinking and resilience."
Meanwhile, the latest tech, media and telecoms predictions from Deloitte have said that the smartphone will be the most used digital device by the end of 2023. Innovation would focus on invisible features such as sensors, connectivity and software.
More than 92% of adults in the UK are expected to have a smartphone in eight years time, rising from 85% today. Similarly, by 2023, more than 85% of 55-75 year-olds will have a smartphone, overtaking the use of PCs and laptops within the age group.