Scots want job quotas to protect them from robots

More than three-quarters of people in Scotland want quotas to protect human jobs in the face of increasing automation, a new study suggests.

Scientists mounted the SpaceBok robot sideways onto a free-floating platform to mimic a zero gravity environment in two dimensions. Picture: PA Wire

Government quotas for human workers were backed by 77 per cent of respondents in Scotland.

Opinium Research carried out the study for PwC, surveying 338 people in Scotland, and found 45 per cent were concerned about the risk automation poses to their jobs.

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More than half - 51 per cent - believe the job they are doing now will not be the same in a decade.

And almost half - 47 per cent - are prepared to take a lower salary if increased technology pushes them out of their current role, while 55 per cent would accept a lower position at another company.

More than half - 51 per cent - are prepared to study full-time at college or university, rising to 64 per cent willing to do this via distance learning.

Questioned about who is responsible for retraining workers affected by the growing use of robotics in the workplace, the most common response in Scotland was the UK Government, at 28 per cent of respondents.

Slightly less, 22 per cent, said the Scottish Government and local authorities were responsible, while the same proportion said it should be dealt with by businesses.

Just four per cent said it was up to workers themselves retrain.

The most popular option for government intervention, supported by 86 per cent of respondents, was providing free or subsidised training courses for anyone who loses their job through automation.

A majority, 84 per cent, said it should be mandatory for businesses to provide reskilling for workers who lose their jobs.

Stewart Wilson, head of government and public sector of PwC in Scotland, said: “It is reassuring to see that so many people working in Scotland today both recognise the role that automation is going to play, and that they are keen to develop new skills in response to this.

“However, what our research tells us is that Government and business must ensure they collaborate to create opportunities for everyone - and that work must begin now.

“Our research has previously projected that more jobs will be created as a consequence of automation in Scotland than displaced, leading to a net benefit.

“But we must recognise that while automation can improve the lives of skilled workers it may make life more difficult for those less skilled and so the UK and Scottish Governments, along with local authorities and businesses need to work together to invest in upskilling initiatives which will benefit the whole workforce.”

A study published in 2018 said automation could cost Scotland 230,000 jobs over the coming decade.

Of the total 230,000 Scottish jobs at risk, this includes 112,700 jobs in Glasgow, 60,800 in Edinburgh, 35,900 in Aberdeen, and 20,000 in Dundee.

According to the study by Centre for Cities, around nine percent of existing jobs in Scottish cities are in occupations predicted to grow in future.

In Edinburgh and Aberdeen job losses in some sectors could be offset by an upswing in high-skilled jobs due to automation and globalisation.