Are workers at risk of being completely replaced by machines?

Reem Hosam El-din
6 Min Read

Technology is doing us all a big favour by making our lives and worlds easier. Social media allows us to communicate with friends and family as if they were a few blocks away.

Smart TVs, mobile phones, and even household electric appliances are all giving us something to brag about.

This era sure is the era of technology.

However, there is always a dark side to every good story.

Developed machines are helpful, but slowly taking over everything, even our jobs. Some say it is too early to worry about this, others expect to be losing their jobs soon. The question is open for an answer at this point: are workers really at risk of being completely replaced by machines and losing their jobs to robots?

In Britain there seem to be fears that the answer to the question above is yes. “Over six million workers are worried that their jobs could be replaced by machines over the next decade, according to a report urging trade unions and the government to provide more support for those at risk,” The Guardian reported.

The Bank of England has previously warned that nearly 15m jobs in the UK could be under threat, and some companies are already beginning to shed jobs in favour of automation, including the online retailer ‘Shop Direct,’ which earlier this year warned that about 2,000 jobs were at risk.

In a poll conducted involving 1,000 people across the UK, it was found that more than 37%—which is nearly 10 million workers—are worried that changes may happen at their jobs for the worse over the next decade, and only few people said they believe there was effort made by the government or trade unions to prepare for the arrival of new workplace modernized technologies.

In terms of the help workers susceptible to losing their jobs receive, a report issued in April of this year by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showed that the most vulnerable individuals are one in seven workers on average across the 32 countries studied, and were less likely to be receiving help than those whose jobs were more secure.

“Low-skilled people and youth were among those most at risk, according to the report, with the jobs at highest risk tending to be in low-skill sectors such as food preparation, cleaning and labouring. Workers in fully automatable jobs were more than three times less likely to have participated in on-the-job training, over a 12-month period, than workers in non-automatable jobs. Those most at risk were also less likely to participate in formal education or distance learning. The OECD also said 14% of jobs in developed countries were highly automatable, while a further 32% of jobs were likely to experience significant changes to the way they were carried out,” The Guardian said.

In China, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly making its way to service sectors, including waiting tables. In a restaurant in Shanghai, a little robotic waiter wheels up to the guest’s table, raises its glass lid to reveal a steaming plate of local Chinese meals, and announces in a mechanical tone “Enjoy your meal”, according to

CNBC reported in 2017 that by 2030, about 800 million workers across the world could be replaced at work by robots. “For some industries, an increase in automation won’t mean a decline in employment, but rather a shift in the tasks needed to be done. For example, any job that involves managing people, applying expertise and social interaction will still be necessary, human performance in those areas can’t be matched by a machine. However, jobs involving mortgage origination, paralegal work, accounting and back-office transaction processing can easily be wiped out by automation.” CNBC said.

Interestingly, according to Forbes, humans are already no longer the dominant species on earth, as an answer to the question: Will robots replace human as the dominant species on Earth in the far future? In 2014, the number of mobile electronic devices surpassed the number of people. If you include computers that are not mobile, the number of internet-connected devices will reach 34 billion by 2020,” Forbes said.

This gives us an idea on how much robots may be taking over the jobs of people, though some jobs would most certainly require human brain and skills. The Guardian said that automation was most likely to affect jobs in the manufacturing industry and agriculture. However, a large number of other service sectors such as postal and courier services, in addition to land transport and food services may be very vulnerable to being taken over by machines, AI, and advanced robots.

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