Robots could replace 250,000 public sector employees, report says

A new report by the Reform think tank has suggested that 250,000 public sector jobs could be replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI) chat bots.

The figure is quoted in Reform’s new research report, Work in progress: Towards a leaner, smarter public sector workforce.

Further recommendations put forward include:

  • Automate administrative roles where appropriate, including in the Civil Service to make Whitehall “diamond-shaped”. Employ technology to improve the efficiency and quality of front-line and strategic roles.
  • Disrupt hierarchies through fewer management layers and self-management models.
  • Cultivate a learning environment by empowering leaders to learn from mistakes, rather than attribute blame. Public services should make better use of randomised-control trials and agile working patterns.
  • Empower leaders to motivate employees as they see fit, unencumbered by rigid pay and performance management structures and role definitions.
  • Introduce new recruitment patterns, including targeting non-traditional entry routes, such as apprenticeships and digital contingent-labour platforms, to attract a wider skill base.

“A new approach is needed. Public services should deliver outcomes that matter to users, and meet expectations of interacting via technology,” the think tank said in a statement.

“This approach would see services designed around users and render at least 248,860 administrative roles redundant.

“The accuracy of decision making can be further improved by using artificial intelligence to make healthcare decisions and by understanding why mistakes that, for example, cause 10% of hospital patients to suffer from medical error, are made.”

The report added that securing the right people is essential if changes are to be made. “New recruitment practices, such as increasing apprenticeships and using gig economy platforms to better organise workers can inject innovation into service delivery,” it said. “In short, this is a framework to make twenty-first century services fit for twenty-first century citizens.”

Reform’s report can be viewed in full here.

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