Monday 21 October 2019

Taoiseach vows action to prepare jobs market for automation

Leo Varadkar said two in every five Irish jobs will be affected in the years to come as new technologies are developed.

Data points to manufacturing industries being the most at risk of automation (PA)
Data points to manufacturing industries being the most at risk of automation (PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

Two in every five Irish jobs will be affected by automation in years to come, the Taoiseach has warned.

Speaking at the Government’s Digital Summit in Dublin, Leo Varadkar said the state must pre-empt any changes to the labour market caused by artificial intelligence and automatic technology.

He said: “Digitalisation is having a profoundly disruptive effect on economies, particularly in the labour market.

We must find a way of charting the correct course, and develop future actions Leo Varadkar

“It’s estimated that over the course of the next two decades, two out of every five jobs in Ireland are likely to be impacted in some way by automation – but some will cease to exist.

“There are positives with the spread of new technology with the creation of new occupations, and I believe the next generation must be given the skills to seize these opportunities and technologies and understand their significance from an early age.

“We must find a way of charting the correct course, and develop future actions.”

Mr Varadkar’s speech echoed what much data and research has been heralding in recent years.

Latest figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said 14% of jobs in developed countries are highly automatable, while 32% are likely to experience significant changes to how they are carried out.

Its report warned automation is most likely to affect jobs in the manufacturing industries and agriculture, although service careers like postal and courier services, transport and food services are also highly vulnerable.

Closer to home, research by University College Cork concluded the jobs most at risk from automation in Ireland are office and secretarial support, process plant operators, and roles in agriculture and customer service.

Ireland’s least at-risk careers were said to include teaching and education, professions in the arts, media, health and social care, and research.

Mr Varadkar spoke at length about the Government’s plans and successes in the area, but noted concerns should stay front of mind as Ireland works to keep its title as “Tech Capital of Europe”.

He added: “Ireland is approaching 100% employment.

“But we can’t rest on our laurels, we know many of these jobs will cease to exist in the years to come, so we need to make sure that we’re ahead of the curve in finding the jobs of the future, the businesses of the future, and the wealth of the future as well.”

The annual summit on Friday saw up to 500 delegates attend events including panel discussions on the future of data and privacy, the challenges of artificial intelligence, countering online disinformation, and competition in the digital economy.

PA Media

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