6 February 2017 | Marino Donati
Robots could replace 250,000 public sector workers by 2030, according to a report.
Think tank Reform says that the trend in the falling number of public sector workers - down by a million since 2009 to 5.3 million - could continue because of automation. It says its research shows that artificially intelligent chat bots and websites will remove the need for more than 90 per cent of administrators in Whitehall by 2030 and save £2.6 billion annually.
It calculates that 90,000 NHS administrators and 24,000 GP receptionists could also be replaced with the same approach.
The report, Work in Progress - towards a leaner, smarter public-sector workforce, claims that public services could become the next Uber, with the 'gig economy' - shorter-term and freelance work - used to employ locum doctors and supply teachers.
The report also makes other suggestions including creating more flexible working environments, including shared kitchens, which it says can create 'water cooler' moments of interaction to disseminate ideas across Whitehall departments, schools and hospitals.
It argues that a new approach to recruitment, including placing less emphasis on degrees, would bring the profile of employees closer to the private sector, which has three times as many under-24s as a proportion of its workforce.
Alexander Hitchcock, report co-author, said: "Such a rapid advance in the use of technology may seem controversial, and any job losses must be handled sensitively. But the result would be public services that are better, safer, smarter and more affordable."