Automation will put half of NI jobs at risk

By Clodagh Rice

Northern Irish jobs are at risk because of automation
Image caption,
Jobs in Northern Ireland are at risk because of an increase in automation

More than 400,000 jobs in Northern Ireland are at risk because of an increase in automation over the next 10 years, a report has said.

The Ulster University's Economic Policy Centre and Catalyst Inc said that figure accounted for 50% of the total number of jobs in Northern Ireland.

The manufacturing sector is the most vulnerable, according to the report.

It looked at the knowledge economy, made up of businesses that rely on technology, research and development.

The report said that 423,000 jobs will be at risk over the next decade.

However, Northern Ireland is the second fastest growing knowledge economy in the UK for the fourth year in a row.

But the report warned that profits, salaries and productivity are slowing down.

"The need for a massive step change in Government policy will force us to address spending priorities we have previously avoided," said Steve Orr, Director of Connect at Catalyst Inc.

"This includes, for example, whether the economy and education can continue to pay for inefficient public spending."

Automation also creates jobs

Richard Johnston from Ulster University's Economic Policy Centre said: "Sectors like manufacturing, logistics and retail and wholesale and some of the lower skilled occupations within are the most vulnerable to being replaced by some technology or machinery or robots.

"That said, automation also creates many other jobs and historically automation has created more jobs that it has ultimately done away with," he added.

Ian Sheppard, Bank of Ireland UK Managing Director for NI, said Northern Ireland's industrial strategy needs to be revisited.

"The Industrial Strategy for NI, which has remained in draft form for the last 12 months, urgently needs to be actioned to ensure greater focus on developing talent and investing in technology," he said.

Last year, a report from consultancy PwC suggested robotics and artificial intelligence could affect almost a third of UK jobs by 2030.

However the study also predicted that the nature of some occupations would change, rather than disappear.

It added that automation could create more wealth and additional jobs elsewhere in the economy.

Jobs in manufacturing and retail were among the most at risk from the new technologies, the report said.