UK retail to lose half a million jobs as automation increases, report finds
One in five retail jobs are expected to be replaced by artificial intelligence or automation robots within the next five years as business leaders embrace new technologies to improve efficiencies.
The 2019 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey has predicted that the UK retail sector will face over half a million job losses by 2024, adding further pressure to a workforce that has already been hit by the long list of store closures and collapses over the past few years.
The findings follow estimations from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that two-thirds of cashier jobs in the UK are at high risk of disappearing.
The shift to automation is being driven from the top, with 44% of IT leaders from over 3,600 organisations looking at automation technologies to make their business faster and more efficient.
For people working in retail, not everything is lost. 67% of those surveyed believe new jobs will be created to compensate for job losses to AI/automation, particularly jobs requiring digital skills.
“If you also consider the radical changes happening in the high street, and the explosive growth of online commerce, it’s clear the retail sector is undergoing massive change. But, while much of the narrative has been around what jobs might be lost, the real battle for success will be around which retailers will be able to attract and develop the right skills and talent for this new automated, digital world,” said Albert Ellis, CEO of global tech recruiter Harvey Nash.
Ellis added: “The rapid deployment of new technology in the sector has allowed retailers to replace skills which are in short supply with automated solutions. But, at the same time, technology has created new roles in areas such as big data/analytics – and retailers are now reporting that they aren’t able to find enough data scientists to fill these vitally important roles.”
Despite the shortage, the shift is already underway. According to the survey, 25% of IT leaders are already implementing Robotic Process Automation, and 27% are using artificial intelligence or machine learning.
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