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Robots will create as many jobs as they destroy: PwC

London

ROBOTS could destroy about seven million existing UK jobs but create at least that many more over the next two decades, according to analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

There will still be winners and losers. Worst hit will be manufacturing, which could see 25 per cent of current staff cut by 2037 because of artificial intelligence and related technologies, the report said on Tuesday.

Health and social work will benefit most, with 22 per cent more jobs created as British society becomes older and richer, demand for care grows and patients expect the "human touch" from medical professionals.

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"Major new technologies, from steam engines to computers, displace some existing jobs but also generate large productivity gains," PwC chief economist John Hawksworth said. "This reduces prices and increases real income and spending levels, which in turn creates demand for additional workers. Our analysis suggests the same will be true of AI, robots and related technologies."

The report recommends more investment in "STEAM" skills - adding art and design to the often-cited list of science, technology, engineering and mathematics - and suggests that governments encourage workers to continually update their skills to complement what machines can do.

"People are understandably worried about the impact of AI on jobs, and businesses and government need to address these concerns head on," Euan Cameron, UK AI leader at PwC, said. "It's likely the fourth industrial revolution will favour those with strong digital skills, as well as capabilities like creativity and teamwork which machines find harder to replicate."

The UK government promised to position itself "at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and data revolution" in its industrial strategy white paper, published in April, identifying AI as one of four "grand challenges" for the future. BLOOMBERG

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