MQT on 2017-01-18
Session date: 
January 18, 2017
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


How is London preparing for the expected rise in automation?


Answer for Automation

Answer for Automation

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for your question.  The subsequent impact of automation on the labour market will be a key challenge over the coming decades.  This includes considering the impact on working people who may be affected by emerging technology and new business models.  The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) has found that up to 15 million jobs - two-thirds of the total jobs in the UK - are at risk of being automated in the coming decades.  I should make clear that no one country, city or administration quite knows what the impact of automation will be, if they are being honest.  We do not know how fast technology will develop or what the social consequences of this will be.  However, London’s continuing success will rely on how well skills providers respond to this changing labour market. 


To make this a success, I will shortly be creating the new Skills for Londoners Taskforce.  This will consist of business representatives, London Councils and key stakeholders from education and training.  The Skills for Londoners Taskforce will be working on developing a city-wide strategic approach to skills.  It will allow London to anticipate the forthcoming changes that automation will bring and ensure that there is a pipeline of skilled London workers to seize opportunities in London’s growth sectors.  Skills for Londoners will cover a range of areas from careers information to apprenticeships, and promote the take-up of advanced learners’ loans. 


The skills system has another vital role to play: that of reskilling workers displaced by the advances of automation.  Overall, a paradigm shift is happening, and we need to make sure automation helps to make London smarter, greener, safer, efficient and cleaner, but a balance needs to be struck between the social consequences and the technology gains that will emerge.  We therefore need to ensure that Londoners have the skills to meet this challenge. 


We also need to ensure that we are fully prepared for the social impact of this change, and all levels of Government need to plan for the future and engage in public policy debate on the consequences of such change. 


Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you.  This is a particular issue for people on low or middle incomes, and I think research has indicated that across the UK jobs paying less than £30,000 are nearly five times more likely to be replaced by automation than those paying £100,000.  Within London, jobs under £30,000 are eight times more likely to be replaced.  Will you make sure that Skills for Londoners particularly looks at this as an issue around low pay as well as across the labour market as a whole?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It is crucial.  The reality is the pace of automation is like nothing we have seen before.  There were probably lawmakers around the Industrial Revolution having conversations like the impact of the Industrial Revolution and there were some Luddites who tried to push back the tide of the Industrial Revolution.


Similarly, automation will have an impact on us as a society.  We have to recognise that.  Our future lies in high-skilled, well-paid jobs.  That is why we have to recognise and encourage our creative industries, skilling up youngsters, Skills for Londoners.  The conversation we had previously about devolution of skills in London, it is really exciting but also daunting.  The reality is many unskilled jobs will not be available in the future due to automation.  You visit Ford now.  Some of the jobs they are doing now are amazing because they have embraced the technology, using robotics to enhance the workforce, which is far more skilled now than yesteryear’s generation of car manufacturers.  We have to recognise that our future as a thriving economy has to be in high-skilled jobs that embrace automation, rather than trying to push back the tide.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Yes, absolutely.  We used to debate about driverless trains and you have highlighted the work of Ford.  Although driverless cars or vans still feel a bit futuristic, when I was preparing for this question I noted that the research you mentioned by IPPR predicts that autonomous vehicles will be the norm by the mid-2030s, which is not that far in the future now even though it feels like it might be.


Are you looking or have you asked TfL to look at the implications of increasing driverless cars on the roads in the comparatively near future?  We have already seen experiments and trials in other parts of the world.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  TfL is looking at this, very much so, and speaking to colleagues.  You will be aware of the recent developments in San Francisco around driverless cars. 


One of the reasons why I am so passionate about air quality sustainability and the charging points we discussed in a previous question is we have to recognise that we have to plan now and get the infrastructure in place now.  Assembly Member Cooper raised the issue of biodiversity.  The reality is this is coming, so we have to plan for it now, which is why it is shocking that people are expressing concern about a T-Charge this year that is part of a package of cleaning up the air in London.  Automation means we have to be savvier as a city going forward and so we are learning from other cities around driverless cars and what has happened in San Francisco.


We talked about the black cab and private hire vehicles.  What does it mean going forward in relation to driverless cars?  It is really important we grapple with this now and plan for it now.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Absolutely.  Thank you.