back to article Bloody robots! 860k public sector jobs to be automated by 2030, say researchers

Once upon a time a public sector job was a golden ticket: little actual work, less accountability, and a job for life. Not any longer. According to research by Deloitte, building on its previous work with the University of Oxford about job automation, up to 861,000 public sector jobs could be automated by 2030. In just over a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    fantastic

    Great news, but what's the betting that these people will be "redeployed'?

    1. TheVogon

      Re: fantastic

      "860k public sector jobs "

      Isn't that almost exactly the same number of non jobs as Gordon Brown and Bliar added to the public sector payroll in a decade (in mostly Labour voting areas of course) ?

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: fantastic

      > what's the betting that these people will be "redeployed'?

      "No new hiring, reduction by attrition, sinking lid policy"

      It will take quite a while for this to percolate through to manglement.

      Meantime those most recently hired will be seeing their career path (promotion by seniority) starting to fizzle out as there will be no new warm bodies to work under them.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Scripts..

    Scripts.. EVERYWHERE!!

  3. Rich 11 Silver badge

    The myth that refuses to die

    Once upon a time a public sector job was a golden ticket: little actual work, less accountability, and a job for life

    As the first four words suggest, this is a fairy tale which has never born much relation to reality. No doubt a string of anecdotes will now appear, masquerading as evidence which proves me wrong. And then there'll be a string of counter-examples showing how the same circumstances can occur in the private sector.

    Haven't we been here before?

    1. Alexander J. Martin
      Joke

      Re: The myth that refuses to die

      Our moderators have just confirmed to me that this user is himself actually posting from a known Whitehall IP address. Quiet day, Rich?

    2. TheVogon

      Re: The myth that refuses to die

      "Once upon a time a public sector job was a golden ticket: little actual work, less accountability, and a job for life"

      2 out of 3 isn't so bad...

  4. TonyJ

    Having worked both within the public and private sectors for the last decade, I can say that you get laziness in both.

    However, you do seem to get lots and lots of unnecessary process and paperwork in the former that lends itself to allowing people to drag their heels or hide behind it.

    You also do seem to see more backside covering and lack of decisiveness.

    Horses for courses and of course, YMMV

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      I agree. Also very noticable in large private sector organisations that were previously in the public sector. Even after 20 years they're not quite private sector.

      Both are guilty of outsourcing to crappy organsiations like Capita.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ummm

    The combination of automation, robotics and AI is truly going to bring huge problems for the human race. The accelerating number of people entering the workforce in the next few decades globally will intersect with a growing amount of mature and usable smart automation and robotics. When unemployment levels reach a certain point, there is always violent social upheaval. The prognosis for this patient is not good.

    1. Richard 81

      Re: Ummm

      Which is why we need to have an objective look at options like universal basic income. I know many people spit angrily when someone suggests giving people money for nothing, but when a huge part of the population is unemployable what else can you do?

      1. Preston Munchensonton
        Pint

        Re: Ummm

        Which is why we need to have an objective look at options like universal basic income. I know many people spit angrily when someone suggests giving people money for nothing, but when a huge part of the population is unemployable what else can you do?

        You assume that people freed from current jobs will not have other jobs available to them. This is the very argument set forward when tractors were introduced for agriculture (and probably when the plow was introduced too, but we don't have records for those arguments). The only thing that anyone knows for certain is that areas which require much human labor will eventually be a target for automation, as much as is feasible at least. That doesn't mean people will remain unemployed. On the contrary, the last 200 years is proof that such advancements are the very thing required to produce economic growth on the scale required to nearly eliminate absolute poverty.

        I understand how easy it is to see the glass half empty, as I'm prone to doing so frequently myself. But there's just no way to know that we'll all be out on our ears once the robots take over. So far so good, in my estimation. Have a pint and don't panic!

        1. Richard 81

          Re: Ummm

          I take your point. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people end up being left behind though.

          ...unless we have another big war to soak them all up.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Ummm

            "...unless we have another big war to soak them all up."

            If you've ever studied history you'll know that populations decimated by war or disease make up those numbers - and then some - within 20 years.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ummm

          I have tried to look on the bright side here and am a technologist enamored with such things. The key is in the swarm of the masses. We currently have a global employment problem. Bringing literally hundreds of millions of workers online in the next two decades when there is not enough work to go around even now, without generalized robotics and AI, is a problem caused mostly by the sheer number of people. It has the potential to be very, very grim. And it isn't like the tractor or any other technology to date. The new tech crosses work boundaries in ways never before seen and will eventually effect almost everything we do. The accumulation of the knowledge to do these new marvelous things has been going on for quite some time and is an unstoppable train at this point. There is no international body to stop it either. Tough decisions ahead.

          1. Preston Munchensonton
            Thumb Up

            Re: Ummm

            And it isn't like the tractor or any other technology to date. The new tech crosses work boundaries in ways never before seen and will eventually effect almost everything we do.

            There's no doubt that the technology introduced will be more complicated and advanced than the advent of the tractor, but the impact can't be more jarring. If anything, we should be far more keen now on the impact of technology, such that people have an opportunity to be better prepared now for these types of shifts.

            The key phrase there is "in ways never before seen". That's not just applicable to the reduction of human labor used in current industries, but also to the new industries that will arise as well. No one in 1900 could have predicted the rise of IT in general. What we do know for sure is that the future of humanity is in producing services, not in producing goods.

            The accumulation of the knowledge to do these new marvelous things has been going on for quite some time and is an unstoppable train at this point. There is no international body to stop it either.

            I certainly hope so. The less that busybody governments intervene, the better off all of us will be.

            1. Charles 9

              Re: Ummm

              The problem here is that even services are increasingly automated: tk th ed point you only need so many people, period, and all the rest are unnecessary.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No jobs for those laid off

          "You assume that people freed from current jobs will not have other jobs available to them. "

          YES because that is what history very clearly shows. The generation suffering job losses do not go on to work in the newly created industries that supplied jobs for their child and their children children. They lose, are tossed aside, retire never or with less assets than otherwise.

          If you made buggy whips and got laid off you did not get a job as an automotive engineer.

          1. TomG

            Re: No jobs for those laid off

            "If you made buggy whips and got laid off you did not get a job as an automotive engineer."

            But possibly got a job as an assembly line worker, at a higher salary.

  6. peeberry

    Nothing new here

    The computerisation(automation) of accounting/production planning etc has removed huge numbers of staff from those functions, I saw a factor of ten reduction in head count in many cases when that happened.

    The scope of automation has naturally moved on to other areas.

    1. Brian Miller
      Childcatcher

      Re: Nothing new here

      But we were just shown, from the beak of all wisdom, Basic income after automation? That’s not how capitalism works!

      Lay them off! Give them impetus to retrain!

      Oh, you mean they were all just numpties? And they're starving in the streets and plotting revolt? Well, then, let's just use them for Soylent Green!

  7. ElectricFox
    Windows

    Great!

    Let's instigate a massive government outsourced IT project to automate the civil service.

    1. Mark 85
      Devil

      Re: Great!

      No!!!! Wrong ones. Let's automate the elected part of government. That will also make lobbyists redundant.

  8. MrXavia
    Facepalm

    £17bn in public sector wage cost cuts by 2030.

    Maybe, but you'll also see....

    a £4bn drop in Tax Reciepts from NI & Income Tax

    up to £15bn in benefits for those now unemployed workers (£76/week JSA, £260/week housing benefit times £860k people)

    so at worst automation will cost the government £2bn more than keeping them employed....

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      @ MrXavia

      Is that from the public workers no longer working? Then it would be a saving. Public workers are paid from public money which is tax from private workers (tax from public sector work doesnt count). That is because public sector work doesnt make money, private work does. There is only a gain for us if the tax payer pays fewer people who then give a little of that money back in tax. But not all of them will be on JSA, instead they could get jobs in the private sector and so generate more money for the country.

      1. strum

        Re: @ MrXavia

        >. That is because public sector work doesnt make money, private work does.

        Ideological twaddle.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: @ MrXavia

          @ strum

          "Ideological twaddle."

          Awesome. So you give me £100 and I will give you say 40% back? The public sector doesnt in general make money. That is how it is supposed to be to provide services without a profit motive. And it is paid for out of tax money collected. That tax money is used to provide the services and to pay the wages of those providing the service. Those public workers pay tax thereby handing the tax money they were paid with back to the tax pot. And around it goes again.

          If you would like a demonstration hand me £100

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Give you £100, you act as a government should, it becomes £200, £300 and more.

            Those with £100, money, today are not spending it, they are hoarding it, concentrating wealth and keeping it out of the hands of government even circulation. Thanks to huge transfers of taxpayers money to the financial industry the global hoarding is now in the many trillions and much of what is being spent is being used to fund other economies over yours.

            So I give you £100, you give me back £40, which I put back into my Duck McScrooge vault. You spend that £60 to build infrastructure, giving it to the peasants in the form of wages and keeping it out of the hands of multinationals that would hoard it elsewhere safe from taxes, and that £40 gets used by thousands, each pound generating far more economic activity than the original £100 did hiding offshore. If I lived in your country I would get far more than £60 back in efficiency from improved infrastructure, healthcare and education.

            But why would I bother doing that? I have £100, you do not and it's my right to keep it off shore away from your grubby little hands and yet still demand trade benefits, and tax money for anything I do because I used £1 of that money to buy your politicians, your representatives.

            So I like your idea's, keep spreading those, tell people it is in their interest that I keep my £100.

            1. Preston Munchensonton

              Re: Give you £100, you act as a government should, it becomes £200, £300 and more.

              Those with £100, money, today are not spending it, they are hoarding it, concentrating wealth and keeping it out of the hands of government even circulation. Thanks to huge transfers of taxpayers money to the financial industry the global hoarding is now in the many trillions and much of what is being spent is being used to fund other economies over yours.

              Ah, yes. Currency hoarding. So the financial industry is just sitting on the cash and swimming around like Scrooge McDuck? #economicsfail

              1. Charles 9

                Re: Give you £100, you act as a government should, it becomes £200, £300 and more.

                "Ah, yes. Currency hoarding. So the financial industry is just sitting on the cash and swimming around like Scrooge McDuck? #economicsfail"

                No, resource hoarding, which they use some of the currency to acquire. The richest of the richest tend to own lots of real estate. Land is a tangible, inherently valuable, and perpetually scarce resource. You can probably find other such resources. Then what happens is that 99% of the population are scrambling for the 1% of volatile land still up for grabs. Or as I like to put it, twelve people stuck in the middle of a hot, arid desert with only one bottle of water. No matter how you slice it, it can't end well.

  9. Bob Rocket

    no ambition

    it should be 16% by 2020 and 100% by 2030

    1. Bob Rocket

      Re: no ambition

      Only one thumb down, make it 100% by 2025

  10. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    WTF?

    eh?

    Quote : A million workers, a fifth of the workforce, are in cognitive roles that mostly require strategic thinking and complex reasoning. These folk, including finance directors and chief executives, have a 14 per cent chance of being automated.

    Its easy to automate these posts, especially in the civil service.

    Give the automatic civil service manager 4 options and program it to approve the one that costs the most plus causes the most disruption and chaos to the currently running system.

    Where 2 plans are equal, go with the one from c(r)apita as the costs from that one are liable to double with no benefit to the service.

    Boris

    <<<ex-civil service and knows what goes on

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: eh?

      "Its easy to automate these posts, especially in the civil service."

      In my experience, you could replace many civil service managers with potted shrubs without much impact...Plus aspidistration would likely be much cheaper than automation!

  11. Banksy
    Terminator

    They took rrrrrrrrrrr jobs!!!

  12. Mark 85

    tincandroid

    ^^^ I wish I could upvote whoever came up that term. I'm adding it to my vocabulary post-haste.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd like to get the house of commons to pass a motion that all Robots require to be given a human-like head with a brown nose and tongue as a visual reminder of the previous generation of robots.

  14. Robert D Bank

    And then...

    All this automation is driven purely by the desire to save and make more money. Only a very small minority will see a real benefit from this. There'll be some side benefits to the rest, but it will never offset what has or will be lost.

    So what is the point, and why do we allow it to happen?

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: And then...

      Now you're proposiing to smash up printing presses? This isn't an old argument.

      1. Robert D Bank

        Re: And then...

        What printing presses you're referring to. Money printing or book printing? If the latter I'm certainly not against progress and learning where it is open to everyone. The point is it's being concentrated to benefit very few at the moment and we're unlikely to see any sort of Enlightenment, i.e. real human progress, coming from that. There's nothing particularly special about the elites apart from their boundless appetite for money and power. Boring.

  15. Harry Kay

    A few points about automation in the past

    1. New jobs were indeed created by the Industrial Revolution that absorbed those displaced by the Agricultural Revolution - but it took about 100 years. We are unlikely to have that much time

    2. There were continuing wars, which 'absorbed' some of the surplus - that doesn't happen so much now

    3. One key issue is the tension between micro and macro economics. On the micro scale, a firm automates, sacks people, reduces its costs and makes more money. On the macro scale, if everyone does this, unless new jobs spring up quickly, spending power in the economy shrinks and companies struggle. Further, as is happening now, industrial workers on say £30K are being displaced, and being replaced by carers (usually different people) on say £18K - family income suffers and family dynamics change as the traditional breadwinner is replaced by his daughter.

    4. The next key issue is how to keep the spending power in the economy - remember the story of Henry Ford showing a Union boss around his newly automated plant in the 1930s? 'How are you going to sign up those machines as members, then?' 'How are you going to get them to buy your cars?'

    Universal income aka everyone on benefits, may breed resentment among those working at those doing little, unless it is some form of workfare - 3rd sector jobs etc.

    Troubling times ahead

    1. Charles 9

      "Universal income aka everyone on benefits, may breed resentment among those working at those doing little, unless it is some form of workfare - 3rd sector jobs etc."

      Not to mention with universal income the question becomes who do you tax to raise the money you need to pay everyone. By default, someone on the dole can't practically be taxed because it's circular. Who pays for Universal Income when it's--well--universal? And if you try to foist it on the rich, you risk defections since having wealth normally means having mobility as well. They can hide behind foreign sovereignty.

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