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Deloitte: Technology Could Eliminate 2M Retail Jobs in UK

Technology has transformed retail forever and the changes aren’t likely to stop anytime soon.

Automation is already responsible for wiping out 338,000 jobs in the United Kingdom’s retail and wholesale sector since 2001. But according to recent analysis from Deloitte, based on the latest Office for National Statistics numbers combined with the business advisory firm’s 2014 work with Oxford University, a further 2.2 million jobs have a high chance of being automated in the next 10 to 20 years.

That means that 59 percent of the sector’s current workforce of 3.7 million is at risk of losing their jobs.

The U.K.’s transport and storage sector also has a high chance of automating 1.5 million jobs (or 74 percent of its current workforce) in the next two decades.

Deloitte’s report said that the changing picture of the country’s workforce is being matched in the distribution of wages: between 2001 and 2015, the total wage contribution of retail decreased 4.14 billion pounds (or $5.9 billion), while transportation and storage fell 2.23 billion pounds ($3.2 billion).

“Advances in technology mean that an ever greater number of tasks in the workplace can be automated. Computers and robots are replacing human labor where it is easier and cheaper for them to be used,” Angus Knowles-Cutler, vice chairman of Deloitte, said, noting that the firm’s study looked at what technology is likely to be capable of, rather than the ease or relative cost of automation. “As the cost of technology reduces or the price of human labor increases, the pace of automation of jobs is likely to accelerate.”

He added, “Sectors where many tasks are manual, clerical, administrative and repetitive are much more vulnerable than those where creative, technical or strong interpersonal skills are required.”

However, he pointed out that technology has created far more U.K. jobs than it has destroyed since 2001 and the new roles tend to offer better wages than those that were replaced. “Also,” he noted, “the effective use of technology will be critical in keeping the country successful and productive in a competitive world.”

He continued, “What will be key is for business, public sector, government and educators to understand fully both the threats and opportunities presented by technology. There is a real need to work together to ensure that both young people and the current U.K. workforce are equipped with the education and skills needed in a new world of work.”