Massive government job losses due to automation - Deloitte forecast

By Charlene Chin

Tech can deliver a potential saving of US$11.3 bn to the public sector.

Automation will cause massive job losses in the public sector, a report has forecast.

The report by Deloitte - State of the State 2016 - published last month, looked at the British Government and forecast at least 861,000 job losses by 2030 due to robotics and artificial intelligence.

Administrative and operative roles are most likely to be replaced by robots, it noted, while frontline and cognitive roles are “highly resistant to complete automation but could be enhanced by such technologies”.

For instance, tasks where data needs to be input into backend systems may be replaced by software. Currently, local governments face problems sharing services with each other, as legacy systems may not be interoperable, it states.

The report - with insight from Oxford academics - forecasts savings of US$11.3 bn (£17bn) to the public sector. However, this will not happen overnight, “its impact is gradual”, it adds.

Currently, one-fifth of government officials are involved in complex decision making, based on cognitive reasoning and judgement. They can use “data analytics to inform decision-making”, but the complex nature of their roles means that automation is likely to complement their roles rather than replace them”.

Service roles, however, can be augmented by automation. “In hospitals, sensor technology is starting to be used to monitor patients’ vital signs, which frees up nurse time for interacting with patients more meaningfully.”

Automation can also help the government save on office spaces, and sell off excess real estate, the report suggests. “While space might need to be adapted for the technology, it is likely a substantial proportion of office space currently occupied by the administrative or operative public sector could be released for sale.”

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