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How worried are people about losing their jobs to AI?

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Computer programming has seen one of the biggest rises in the number of employees. An additional 274,000 people work in the field compared with when the last census took place in 2011.
By Joely Santa Cruz, data journalist, and Daniel Dunford, senior data journalist
Wednesday 31 May 2023 21:57, UK
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Sky News analysis of the latest census data shows the jobs we now work in, revealing a shift to data and computer programming.
The youngest workers were in retail and hospitality while farmers and elected officials had the most workers aged 60 and over.
It comes as new polling suggests a quarter of people are concerned they could lose their jobs to artificial intelligence (AI).
Some 27.8 million people aged 16 and over in England and Wales said they were in employment at the time the census was taken in March 2021. This was during the middle of the pandemic, however those on furlough were asked to record their employment as ongoing.
The most popular jobs have changed over time, reflecting wider societal shifts as advances in technology create new roles.
Computer programming has seen one of the biggest rises. An additional 274,000 people work in the field compared with when the last census took place in 2011.
This represented the biggest rank change among the top-ranking professions over the time period, climbing from 14th most common in 2011 to 8th in 2021.
Financial services dropped down the rankings furthest, from 10th to 13th place.
There are now more people employed in computer programming and consultancy than in financial services, including in London.
This trend towards newer professions is also shown by growing age gaps in some of the more traditional roles.
For data entry professionals, 16-34 year-olds made up two fifths of the workforce.
In contrast, more than three fifths of „typists and other keyboard professions” were aged 50 or older.
Are newer professions more at risk of being overtaken by developing AI technologies?
Some of the jobs which may be most at risk are those jobs in data and digital where more young people are working.
New polling shared with Sky News shows that one in four workers (24%) are worried about the potential of generative AI (such as ChatGPT) to make their job redundant.
The polling, carried out by Opinium for Prospect, a trade union for tech experts and other specialist roles, also shows that 58% of workers believe the government should set rules around the use of AI to protect workers’ jobs.
Andrew Pakes, deputy general secretary of the Prospect union, said: „There are clearly risks as well as benefits associated with AI, especially over how it is introduced at work and what it means for jobs.
„Our polling found that a quarter of workers are worried about the potential for generative AI like ChatGPT to make their job redundant.
„Despite new skills involved in data and tech roles, many jobs are precarious and insecure – not just from the threat of AI but also from employers deploying new tech at work without consultation or accountability.
„Rather than waiting until more problems occur before taking action, government must engage now with both employees and employers to draw up fair new rules for using this tech.”
What are the most gender-specific jobs?
Among the most male-dominated professions were construction and building roles. Over 99% of bricklayers, roofers and scaffolders were men.
The professions with the highest share of women were midwifery at 99% and nannies at 98.1%.
Some 97% of early education and childcare practitioners were women. However, in higher education roles such as university lecturing there was a much more even split, with 48% women. This matches the proportion of women in the wider working population.
There is good news for gender balance in some professions, with younger women making progress in the science and engineering professions.
Although male engineers outnumber women by 10 to one in the 50 to 54 age group, we can see a younger cohort of women making up ground. Nearly half of engineers in the 16 to 34 age group were women.
Are some professions dying out?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, sports and hospitality roles were among the youngest-leaning jobs of those surveyed, with 79% of professional sports players and 77.5% of coffee shop workers aged under 35.
Other occupations, however, lean heavily towards older age groups, suggesting they may not be attracting younger workers.
The jobs with the oldest age profiles were elected representatives (which includes roles like councillors and MPs) and farmers, with around a third of workers in those professions aged 65 and over.
A spokesperson for the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, said: „Being a councillor is hugely rewarding role which gives you the chance to make a huge difference to the quality of life of local people. We need people from all backgrounds and experiences who reflect the communities they serve to put themselves forward for election.
„The LGA, through its next generation and be a councillor programmes, does all it can both to encourage more young people to stand for election as well as support existing younger councillors to take on greater leadership roles in their local authorities.”
For farmers, 43% of workers were aged over 60, making it the oldest skewing occupation overall. However, farm workers – who are recorded separately and who may do more of the physical labour – are often young. Nearly a quarter of farm workers were aged under 25.
So is the farming sector in trouble, or will those younger farm workers eventually progress into more senior roles?
Looking at the change since the 2011 census, there does seem to be a shift with the population of farmers ageing.
In 2021, 53,000 (57%) of the 92,000 farmers aged 20 and over were under 60. Not only has the total number of farmers fallen from 113,000 in 2011, the share of younger farmers has also decreased; down from 67%.
The age groups used vary slightly between the latest census and 2011. We have adjusted the age groups accordingly so that the 2021 figures represent 20 years and over while the 2011 data refers to 20 to 74-year-olds.
Chris Dickinson, a farmer from Cumbria and a member of the National Farming Union’s Next Generation Forum, which aims to champion the role of the next generation in farming, said: „Farming, especially in rural areas, is a key part of the economy.
„It is a big, big source of employment and there’s not much else people can do. So, it’s important that we’re bringing new talent in into the industry all the time.”
However, this can be challenging due to the initial costs faced by those wanting to enter the profession, low margins in the industry, and other factors making the work harder such as general labour shortages.
At £10,000 an acre, even a relatively small 50 acre farm would cost £500,000 for the land alone.
He added: „It’s not seen as a trendy occupation to get in to, it’s very long hours – a lot more than you would do working in a conventional job. It isn’t for everyone.
„The margins haven’t been particularly great in farming over the past few years. UK farmers can’t compete [with imported foods] because of higher labour and energy costs.”
And older farmers may end up carrying on longer than they normally would because there is no one willing to take on the farm.
What are the most common jobs?
The top 10 most common roles employ 5.5 million people, representing one in five of the working population.
There are over 1.1 million workers currently employed in sales and retail positions across England and Wales, making it the most common job type. This is followed by care workers and home carers at 856,000.
The ONS have also released an interactive tool where you can find out how many people work in a similar role to you.
The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.
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