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Covid pandemic is ‘accelerating the rise of robots’

Jobs in the hospitality industry will be among the hardest hit by automation as the coronavirus outbreak ‘accelerates the rise of robots’.

A study by the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) found the current crisis was increasing demand for less contact with people and fuelling a rise in technology to perform roles once occupied by humans.

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The report comes after hospitality bosses told MPs that pubs, bars and restaurants were braced for job losses ‘far higher’ than half a million by the end of the year when furlough come to an end. 

The coronavirus pandemic is fuelling a rise in technology to perform roles once occupied by humans, a report by the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) found. Pictured: A waiter wears a face mask as he serves customers at a restaurant in St. Albans

Hospitality, sports and recreation, and parts of manufacturing are the sectors most likely to face widespread job losses as Covid-19 accelerates the drive for automation, said the RSA.

Its research suggested that the pandemic was accelerating trends to automation, as changing consumer trends, public health measures, and the cost of labour all boosted ‘the rise of the robots.’

Five years of digital transformation have happened in the last months in sectors including retail, which has seen a big increase in online sales, said the report.  

Fabian Wallace-Stephens of the RSA, said: ‘Covid-19 is accelerating the rise of the robots, with some sectors seeing five years of digital transformation in five months alone, but the Government’s response to the pandemic risks us losing many ”automation-proof” jobs.

‘The arts and entertainment, travel and tourism, and the creative industries, are likely to be important areas for jobs growth in the future, but need more support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘Likewise, many workers who need to be retrained may be lulled into a false sense of security by the current pandemic.

‘We saw increased demand for supermarket workers during the first lockdown, but technology such as checkout-free stores could prove to be a gamechanger in the second wave.

‘We need targeted support for at-risk sectors with a long-term future, better support for workers including ‘job security councils’, and more retraining.’

According to the report, the Korean technology company Yanolja has seen demand for its self-service kiosks double amid the coronavirus crisis while Sainsbury’s said demand for its SmartShop system – which allows customers to scan their items and skip checkout queues- rose from 15 to 30 per cent. 

The report said jobs in hospitality, sports and recreation, and parts of manufacturing were most likely to face job losses. (Stock image)

The report said jobs in hospitality, sports and recreation, and parts of manufacturing were most likely to face job losses. (Stock image)

Last week, the UKHospitality industry body told the Treasury Select Committee that local lockdowns, the Government’s 10pm curfew and a fall in customer confidence had affected businesses in the sector.   

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the group, said around 900,000 hospitality workers remain on full furlough payments and said she anticipated 560,000 additional job losses by the end of the year.

She said: ‘We are doing that data again but we anticipate it will be far higher due to local restrictions, the national constraints on events, working from home and the curfew.’ 

Ms Nicholls explained that more jobs were expected to be lost as the Government’s  furlough scheme came to an end.

She told MPs: ‘We fear that unless there are amendments for those areas which are particularly hit, you won’t avoid the cliff edge in October and we have got large numbers of redundancies that are forecast in October because of how the jobs support scheme is set up.

The UKHospitality industry body said local lockdowns, the Government's 10pm curfew and a fall in customer confidence had affected businesses. Pictured: Members of staff at an Ask Italian restaurant in Manchester

The UKHospitality industry body said local lockdowns, the Government’s 10pm curfew and a fall in customer confidence had affected businesses. Pictured: Members of staff at an Ask Italian restaurant in Manchester  

‘There is a very real danger that we will lose large chunks of the economy – in hospitality we will have insolvent businesses, businesses going into administration and therefore that engine of growth for re-employing people will be lost for good.  

‘I think that’s what we need to be focusing on to make sure we support viable jobs for the future.

‘In our sector, those on full-time and part-time furlough are in viable jobs in the long term.’    

After it was announced, the 10pm curfew sparked an immediate industry backlash and the UKHospitality group said it was ‘another crushing blow’. 

Tory MPs also expressed concerns about the curfew plans, describing them as a ‘terrible blow’ for the hospitality industry and warning there must not be another ‘major lockdown’. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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