Fears over rise of robots implied in Great Yarmouth’s Brexit vote
PUBLISHED: 15:02 29 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:38 29 December 2019
Were fears over the rise of robots and loss of jobs on the minds of people in Great Yarmouth who voted for Brexit?
A recent study suggests that may have been the case, noting a "strikingly close relationship" between areas at risk of automation and areas that voted 'Leave' in the 2016 referendum.
The report on the impact of artificial intelligence in the workplace, published by the Institute for the Future of Work (IFOW), says that areas where automation is predicted to have a stronger impact on jobs are also areas that had a higher propensity to vote for Brexit.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) indicate Great Yarmouth - which had the fifth-highest leave vote - is the third most vulnerable local authority in the UK to automation.
Among the occupations most at risk are leisure and theme park attendants, van drivers, agricultural machinery drivers, waiters and waitresses, bar staff and kitchen and catering assistants.
In a discussion paper - entitled Automation, Politics and the Future of Work - the IFOW said a new group it termed the "invisible outsiders", who work in poor quality jobs, were governed by a heightened sense of insecurity associated with automation.
But the report has been criticised by Brandon Lewis MP, who said: "I am not sure that the author of this paper has any real understanding of our borough and its economy.
"The largest employers in our borough collectively are the tourism and health/care sector, both of which are less likely to be affected by automation in the short to medium term."
Mr Lewis also rejected the notion that people in Great Yarmouth voted to leave the EU for the "negative and fearful reasons" implied in the study.
"The majority of people who I have spoken to supported Brexit as they felt it would empower our nation, and allow us to focus on global trading opportunities," Mr Lewis said.
Mike Smith-Clare, county councillor, said: "With the report predicting that 20% of jobs will be lost as a result of automation within the next 10-15 years, then unless wide scale adaption strategies are implemented, the future looks bleak.
"At present too many local residents are unable to access lucrative off shore industry employment due to a lack of appropriate experience and qualifications.
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"Changes to employment understandably bring economic and social fears, but in Great Yarmouth very little has been done by either the Government or its MP to allay them.
"Poverty rather than opportunity has been the reality for many, with residents understandably angry at being cut adrift by a decade of incompetent austerity."