Automation will produce significant productivity gains that will reshape specific sectors and occupations. These gains are likely to be recirculated, with jobs reallocated rather than eliminated, economic output increased, and new sources of wealth created. The problem is likely to be one of how income and wealth are distributed. Automation could create a ‘paradox of plenty’: society would be far richer in aggregate, but, for many individuals and communities, technological change could reinforce inequalities of power and reward.
These changes may well affect men and women differently, because men and women tend to have different jobs in the UK labour market. Our analysis shows that twice as many women as men work in occupations with a high potential for automation (9 per cent compared to 4 per cent of men), and that 64 per cent of jobs in these occupations are held by women. Migrants, and lone parents (typically women) are more likely to hold jobs with high automation potential.
But technology is not destiny. This paper argues that automation presents an opportunity to narrow gender inequalities, and sets out four propositions for change based on this premise.