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Advances in robotics and computing are enabling the automation of a greater range of tasks than has been possible previously. Activities such as driving a car, writing an earnings report or translating a text from one language to another can now be carried out autonomously. Use of automation technologies can increase productivity, product reliability and worker safety, while reducing costs.

Technology has not historically led to long-term unemployment, although it has displaced workers from specific tasks and altered the type of employment available. Opinion is divided on whether this pattern will continue, and concerns have been raised by some economists, technology experts and others that automation may lead to job losses occurring at a faster rate than job creation.

This briefing outlines current applications of automation technologies and their potential implications for the UK workforce, including for jobs, skills, education and inequality.

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