Automated machines have been serving us at the bank counter and supermarket checkout for some time now – but how about robots working in offices and estate agents? It’s the stuff of sci-fi novels, but it’s a future which could be closer than first thought says a new report by think tank Reform.

Based on a study by Carl Frey, co-director of the Oxford Martin programme on technology and employment at Oxford University, Reform suggests higher earning jobs are likely to disappear, with robots replacing around 250,000 UK public sector jobs by 2030, including admin roles.

Carl Frey said: “Low-skilled jobs are most exposed to automation over the forthcoming decades, but a substantial number of middle-income jobs are equally at risk.”

Examining office jobs that pay £40,000 annually or more, 35% UK jobs analysed were found to be at risk.

Top of the list are insurance workers and estate agents, who have more than 97% chance of becoming automated, with credit analysts close behind.

Postal service workers have a 95% change of being replaced by robots, whilst accountants, auditors and tube/tram drivers have a 93% chance of being computerised. Lab technicians also appear on the list with an 89% chance of automation by 2030.

The report suggests using artificial intelligence and automated systems could save public sector bodies thousands of pounds a year, giving the example of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) which has reduced its admin staff from 96,000 to 60,000 in the last 10 years by providing more online services.

“Whitehall, the NHS and police can reduce headcount significantly”, it predicts, explaining: “Across public services, workforces have been designed around workers: they are hierarchical, too large and unresponsive to user needs”.

But it’s not all bad news. The report states that replacing workers with technology just because it is possible, does not mean it should happen without thought. “Cutting numbers should not be seen as an end in itself; technology should replace jobs where it can deliver a better service, as well as a more cost-efficient one,” it says.

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