A new report from the ONS on the threats automation poses to workers, with women workers most at risk, is more evidence that a radical response including a shorter working week is needed.

  • Around 1.5 million jobs in England in 2017 were at high risk of having some of their duties and tasks automated in the future, according to the ONS.
  • The analysis showed a higher proportion of roles currently filled by women are at risk of automation; in 2017, 70.2% of high risk jobs were held by women.
  • In addition, younger people were also likely to be in jobs affected by automation. Of those aged 20-24 who are employed, 15.7% are in jobs at high risk of automation.

Sharon Graham, executive officer for Unite with responsibility for automation said: “This report confirms what Unite has been saying, automation is a serious threat to the jobs of many workers - women workers will be hit especially hard. We must not and will not sit back and wait for new technology to be imposed, especially when it is putting workers’ livelihoods at risk.

“Unite is developing a political and industrial strategy to build a future that works. New technology is going to generate a lot of wealth. We will fight to make sure this wealth is used to do things that help workers and their families, such as reducing working time without loss of pay. Automation needs to deliver for ordinary people, not just make bigger profits for corporations.

“A shorter working week without loss of pay can help workers stay in work when new technology reduces the number of tasks that need to be done by people. We need a radical response to the new realities of the labour market. This challenge is beyond the old politics - tinkering at the edges is not a solution. We need powerful unions to fight for that to happen. The gains from technology should be used to change the lives of working people including better retirements and shorter working time.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has commissioned Lord Skidelsky to make recommendations and inform the Labour party’s policy development on working time reduction and how Britain’s workers face the challenges of automation.


Unite is a union that campaigns for and delivers better pay and conditions for its members. Unite is winning at work based on three core values. Secure Work: fighting for jobs and job security, Strong Voice: a union which is a respected voice at work and Decent Pay: a union focused on pay and conditions.

For more information contact Ciaran Naidoo 07768 931 315

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.