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Oxford Martin School study shows nearly half of US jobs could be at risk of computerisation

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Nearly half of US jobs could be susceptible to computerisation over the next two decades, a study from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology suggests.

The study, a collaboration between Dr Carl Benedikt Frey (Oxford Martin School) and Dr Michael A. Osborne (Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford), found that jobs in transportation, logistics, as well as office and administrative support, are at “high risk” of automation. More surprisingly, occupations within the service industry are also highly susceptible, despite recent job growth in this sector.

“We identified several key bottlenecks currently preventing occupations being automated,” says Dr Osborne. “As big data helps to overcome these obstacles, a great number of jobs will be put at risk.”

The study examined over 700 detailed occupation types, noting the types of tasks workers perform and the skills required. By weighting these factors, as well as the engineering obstacles currently preventing computerisation, the researchers assessed the degree to which these occupations may be automated in the coming decades.

“Our findings imply that as technology races ahead, low-skilled workers will move to tasks that are not susceptible to computerisation — i.e., tasks that required creative and social intelligence,” the paper states. “For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills.”

Dr Frey said the United Kingdom is expected to face a similar challenge to the US. “While our analysis was based on detailed datasets relating to US occupations, the implications are likely to extend to employment in the UK and other developed countries,” he said.

The Future of Employment is available to download.


Dr Michael A. Osborne is a University Lecturer in the Machine Learning Research Group of the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science. His research interests focus on the design of intelligent systems: algorithms capable of substituting for human time and attention. He has worked to apply his novel techniques to scientific and engineering problems in fields as diverse as astrostatistics, ornithology and sensor networks.

Dr Carl Benedikt Frey is an economics researcher with the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology and Nuffield College.

His work focuses on technological change and its potential impacts on labour markets, as well as on income inequality. He has previously worked as an economist in government, academia and the financial sector.