The robots are coming, but for who? Waiters and shelf stackers

ONS report assesses which workers are likely to be overtaken by automation

14 per cent of jobs currently held by humans could soon be managed by robots. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The robots are coming for our jobs, but not everyone’s. According to a report by UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), waiters and shelf stackers are the most likely to be replaced by robots.

However, bar staff, sales assistants, pharmacists, security guards and bus drivers are also on the front line and liable to find much of their current chores taken over by algorithms and AI machines.

The three occupations with the lowest risk of automation are doctors, higher education teaching professionals, and senior professionals of educational establishments.

The ONS says about 1.5 million jobs in England, or 7.4 per cent of jobs, are at high risk of being automated, in particular "elementary occupations".


This is lower than previously estimated, perhaps reflecting the fact that some jobs have already been automated.


The ONS analysis looked at the tasks performed by up to 20 million workers in jobs across the whole labour market, to assess the probability that some of these tasks could be replaced through automation.

“It is not so much that robots are taking over, but that routine and repetitive tasks can be carried out more quickly and efficiently by an algorithm written by a human, or a machine designed for one specific function,” it said.

“The risk of automation tends to be higher for lower-skilled roles for this reason,” it added.

The ONS report noted that women, young people, and those who work part-time are most likely to work in roles that are at high risk of automation.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggested that 66 million people are at risk of losing their job to machines.

That means 14 per cent of jobs currently held by humans could soon be managed by robots.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times