Rise of the robots: Four in five retail jobs at risk of "vanishing" to automation predict Citi analysts and Oxford academics


Experts at Citi and Oxford have analysed the impact of job automation (Source: Getty)

Four in five retail jobs that don't directly involve customers are at risk of being replaced by robots, analysts at a top investment bank believe, as more people shop online instead of the high street.

A fresh report covering the impact of technology on work identifies that just 20 per cent of workers employed in the back-end areas of retail such as transport, logistics and warehousing are safe from automation, while nearly two thirds of sales jobs are under threat.

Read more: Robot wars: Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk are embroiled in a geeky AI spat

And in the UK, more retail jobs are at risk than those in any other industry: over 2m according to previous studies. Estimates of job automation risk are put at 47 per cent across industries, or 10.4m jobs in total in the UK.

"Retail is one industry in which employment is likely to vanish," said Carl Benedikt Frey of Oxford University's Martin School which produced the report with Citi.

The report gave one example of the US, where automating the 90 per cent of warehouse picking currently done by hand by 2m people, could make the work as much as six times more productive.

Read more: There's now a real-life robocop fighting crime in Dubai

And unlike manufacturing jobs which are highly concentrated, the report said every city and region is likely to be affected. But technology will also mean an increasing demand for warehousing space - 2.3bn by 2035 it estimates, even in cities.

Warehouse availability in the US is currently at an all-time low, while in London, between 60 and 70 per cent of industrial sites sold go towards residential housing, indicating new innovative solutions are needed that have the potential to reshape urban areas, such as Airbnb for warehousing.