Digital Automation Technologies and the Future of Work(ers) in the UK: A Policy Roadmap

Maria Savona and Brian MacAulay

University of Sussex Policy Brief


With the accelerating pace of recent years, there is an urgent need for policymakers to address the current and future impact of emerging digital automation technologies on jobs, skills demand, and wage inequality. Critical decisions will need to be made to ensure that investment, education, and skills training keep up with a range of technological and socioeconomic shifts. 

Key findings

  • For firms, workers and society to benefit from automation, we need timely information on industry and occupation exposure to emerging technologies. 
  • Technicians and professionals are becoming increasingly exposed to different emerging automation technologies across different industries and regions.
  • Despite expert optimism, job vacancies indicate limited rate of adoption in UK and EU. • Emerging technologies cannot yet perform activities that require interpersonal skills.
  • The UK lags behind in industrial automation adoption, including in most of the service-oriented emerging technologies.
  • Short run labour market impacts smooth out in the long run.
  • Phase of technology adoption matters more than regional differences in productivity and specialisation.
  • Training decreases automation risk, increases wages and is equally effective for younger and older workers.
  • Workers in manual and routine occupations especially affected by skills shortages in all skill domains.