Ready for a Robot co-worker?

Ready for a Robot co-worker? Share

We’ve been reading some interesting news this week about the rise of robots, and in particular a stat caught our eye with regards to the number of accountancy jobs likely to be taken over by automation in the future.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that figure is a staggering 25.9% of chartered and certified accountant jobs in England which are set to disappear as technology takes over. In addition, almost half (48.2%) of finance officer roles are at risk of being replaced by automation.

Where do these stats come from?

The ONS analysed 20 million jobs in England in 2017 found that 1.5 million (7.4%) are at high risk of automation in the coming years. While this was a slight decrease from its most recent analysis (8.1% between 2011 and 2017), the ONS also reported a rise in the proportion of jobs at low or medium risk of automation.

The medical profession faced the lowest risk, with 18.1% of medical practitioners likely to be affected, whereas at the other end of the scale, 72.8% of jobs for waiters and waitresses were at risk. Many of you may already be familiar with self-service ordering while eating out, as well as apps which make billing and paying simpler for groups – eliminating the need for costly human interaction in these areas.

Widening inequality through automation?

The ONS analysis also showed that women are disproportionally at risk of being affected, as they currently hold 70.2% of the roles at high risk of automation.

Workers in their 20s are also at higher risk, with this decreasing as the individual gets older – those aged 35 to 39 often hold roles with the least risk of automation – however the risk begins to increase again from the age of 40.

Working with robots and other new technologies

Research from last year suggests that as many as half of accountants in the UK would be comfortable working with a robot colleague, though almost a fifth (18%) would be uncomfortable in this situation, and a further third are unsure. This is according to a survey of over 100 accountants conducted by accountancy software company, FreeAgent.

Respondents were also largely positive about other technological changes, with 62% believing that HMRC’s making tax digital project would lead to new opportunities in their practices, while 56% expect artificial intelligence developments in the next five years that will aid accountancy work.
However, the survey showed that the sector remains sceptical about crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin, with only 2% believing that these will become widespread in five years’ time.

Despite being open to changes, 78% of accountants say they are considering retraining to safeguard the future of their role. The majority (80%) expect to spend less time on manual tasks in the future, with 73% predicting a greater focus on providing expert advice to clients.

Ed Molyneaux, chief executive of FreeAgent, said he thought it would “be a number of years before we see physical robots joining the workforce” but that it was “interesting that many accountants are already anticipating the changes that automation will bring in the future.”

We’d love to hear your thoughts about the prospect of working with robots, and what you’d most like them to be able to do for you!

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