Wigan to be left behind due to workplace robots says report

A collaborative robot
A collaborative robot

Wigan has been named as one of the areas which will be hit hardest by the looming surge in robots doing skilled and semi-skilled jobs.

A new report out today suggests a swathe of towns across the North of England and the Midlands will bear the brunt of the knock-on impact of widespread atomised working.

The report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) identifies 10 former manufacturing towns which will find it hard to adapt to artificial intelligence technology making many jobs redundant.

They are; Wigan, Doncaster, Blackpool, Mansfield, Barnsley, Bradford, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent, Wakefield and Dudley.

The CSJ is calling for Government action to help such communities by setting-up tax enterprise zones underpinned by a £1.4 billion regeneration fund.

Scrapping employers’ national insurance payments for high growth businesses would also be a benefit, according to the CSJ.

Otherwise regional divides will widen with jobs growth in the North of England and Midlands continuing to fall behind London and the South East, the report states.

Cities such as London, Manchester and Birmingham were found to be well placed to ride the wave of the so-called “forth industrial revolution” of automation, while areas still impacted by the loss of heavy industry in the 1980s would be hit again, the report said.

The study called for co-ordinated investment in transport, education and dealing with social breakdown issues.

The CSJ states: “Automation will further entrench social deprivation unless action is taken.

“The same towns in the North and the Midlands that were worst hit by the loss of industry are most at risk of a second surge in unemployment triggered by robots taking over skilled and semi-skilled jobs.”

The think tank’s chief executive Andy Cook said: “Parts of the UK are trapped in a cycle of deprivation that is only set to get worse as the jobs market changes.

“Automation will bring huge positives to the UK economy as a whole, including a much-needed boost to productivity, but not everyone will benefit equally.

“To allow the residents of these ‘left behind’ towns to seize the opportunities in the future jobs market, they need a policy blueprint that provides better transport links, better teachers in schools, better housing and dynamic local leadership to raise aspirations and create opportunities.

“In cities such as Manchester, the effect of strong leadership is clear. Manchester’s revival as a hub for marketing, technology, design and other professional services is in large part down to the powerful leadership of the joint leaders of the city council.

“It now attracts the second largest amount of foreign direct investment for a city in the UK after London.

“We need a raft of new measures to bring around a regional revolution. Power must be put in the hands of accountable local leaders, such as the metro mayors, who know where resources would be best used.

“Turning around the ‘rustbelt’ region is not only important to the country as a whole if we are to compete internationally; it’s vital to improving the lives of those who suffer the injustice of being born where opportunity is lacking.”

A Government spokesman said: “There are already more than 1.5 million digital tech jobs in the UK, and the sector is creating jobs at twice the rate of the rest of the economy.

“To ensure no region is left behind, we are giving £9 billion to Local Enterprise Partnerships to create opportunities for businesses and communities across the country.”