Robots could replace 250,000 public sector workers - report

Posted On: 
6th February 2017

Robots could replace a quarter of a million public sector workers over the next 15 years, according to a new report published today.

Reform says 90% of Whitehall’s 137,000 administrative staff could be replaced with “chatbots” by 2030
Credit: 
PA Images

The Reform think tank said that using websites and artificially intelligent “chatbots” could radically overhaul the public sector and save billions of pounds.

According to the group’s ‘Work in progress’ report 90% of Whitehall’s 137,000 administrative staff could be replaced with “chatbots” by 2030, saving £2.6bn a year.

The robots are coming: What will new technology mean for tomorrow's workplace?

Fresh warning on Whitehall 'turf wars' over Brexit as Civil Service under strain

Union boss blasts 'bitter' Michael Gove over Whitehall name and shame call

Some 90,000 NHS administrators and 24,000 GP reception jobs could be automated with the introduction of self-serve websites and chatbots, saving around £1.7bn, the report added.

About 30% of nurses’ tasks could also be automated, including information collection and handing out intravenous medication.

Reform recommended that some government departments should be run in the style of Uber’s “gig economy” with flexible temporary staff picking up jobs on an ad hoc basis through online platforms.

The report argued that the current workforce "is built around siloed attitudes of yesterday’s governments and fails to embrace technology and new ways of working to meet users’ needs in the most effective ways”.

"A traditionalist mentality fails to cultivate a culture of change: mistakes are covered up, risk-aversion is rife and leaders have not built the workforce around the needs of users,” the report said.

“That there is one receptionist for every GP should be alarming in a world in which online banking is the norm."

Alexander Hitchcock, the report's co-author, said: "Such a rapid advance in the use of technology may seem controversial, and any job losses must be handled sensitively.

"But the result would be public services that are better, safer, smarter and more affordable."