Emerging themes

New jobs, old jobs, more jobs, fewer jobs


As highlighted throughout this report, the drivers of change are revolutionising the employment landscape including the what, where and how much of work.

The transformation of jobs through technology is particularly gathering pace (see technology). Jobs in sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture (which a century and a half ago employed well over half the workforce) now account for less than 10% and are declining. Today, and into the future, technological developments and increased productivity will create new jobs. But will there be enough to maintain existing employment levels, let alone increase them? (see emerging themes – labour market)

New jobs that were unknown just a few years ago include: data analyst; cyber-security specialist; geneticist; social media influencer; digital marketing executive; and fact checker. In contrast, the future looks bleaker for those in jobs such as: sales assistant; driver (taxi, lorry, courier); call centre operator; and many more. Even “knowledge” jobs are under threat nowadays with the advance of technology in the delivery of professional services. For example, there has been huge investment and rapid development of technology in financial services and the legal and medical sectors (Fintech, LegalTech and MedTech respectively).

New jobs, more jobs, old jobs, fewer jobs

New jobs

The drivers of change will result in new jobs being created. In particular, technological advances, sustainability and social trends will create new occupations. The ONS 2020 report lists new occupations absent from its 2010 report which include: cyber security professional; web content technician; data analyst; DNA analyst; warehouse operative; and coffee shop worker. Other jobs unheard of ten years earlier would include social media influencer, fact-checker and vaccinator. 

Old jobs

Old jobs

As well as new occupations being created, change leads to others reducing in number or even dying out. Occupations are vulnerable particularly as a result of automation and social trends. The 2019 ONS report identifies those at particular risk of automation as including waiting staff (72%) and receptionists (62%) whereas low risk include medics (18%) and gardeners (32%). The move from fossil fuels to renewable energy will also result in jobs disappearing as well others being created.

More jobs

More jobs

The number of jobs is influenced by a variety of factors. Economic growth, higher consumer spending and increased productivity can create a demand for more jobs The role of the state is important, with investment in sectors such as renewable energy, technology, health and social care creating more jobs. The state can also create more jobs through more public sector jobs. No doubt, society would benefit from more doctors, nurses, teachers or police officers.

Fewer jobs

Fewer jobs

The number of jobs available will reduce in economic downturns where businesses need to save costs and consumer spending declines as well as in times of austerity with reduced public expenditure. Automation and artificial intelligence promise to reduce work across most sectors with potentially frightening medium to long-term implications for the number of available jobs. Additionally, globalisation can lead to jobs being “off-shored” to other countries.

New jobs, more jobs, old jobs, fewer jobs - Sectoral change

Impact on sectors

The last 150 years have seen a dramatic increase in employment in the service sector which now accounts for 84% of UK jobs. Over the first half of that period the workforce in primary industries (mining, agriculture) declined dramatically from over a quarter of jobs to around 1%. More recently, the numbers in manufacturing have declined to less than 10%,  whereas as recently as 1979 manufacturing accounted for nearly a quarter of all jobs.


Over the last 25 years, automation and globalisation have had a profound effect on UK manufacturing jobs, though numbers stabilised over the second half of that period. With development in robotics and 3D and 4D printing the need for human intervention in the manufacturing process will reduce further. However, automation will reduce the cost benefits of siting plants in low labour -cost jurisdictions, potentially reversing the off-shoring of jobs. 

Service sector

Employment in the services sector now accounts for around 84% of jobs. However, within services, the growth over the last quarter of a century has been uneven with sectors such as health and care; and professional, scientific and technical growing rapidly whereas growth in retail and financial  jobs has been negligible. This distinction is likely to continue with potential for further growth in the faster growing areas. Jobs in retail and finance, however, are more likely to reduce in the coming years. 

Technology giants

Technology companies now dominate the top ten biggest companies and have risen to these heights quickly. Twenty-five years ago, in 1996, the three biggest corporations were GM, Ford and Exxon Mobil - none of which feature in today’s top ten. Twenty-five years earlier in 1971, they were still GM, Exxon Mobil and Ford. The current top ten also highlights the rapid international growth of technology businesses, as well as the big Chinese businesses.

Part 1 


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Part 2 


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Part 3 


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