TUC: AI workers should help reverse pension age increase

Workers have yet to reap the rewards of automation, says TUC

The benefits gained from the adoption of AI in the workplace should be used to improve work conditions and reverse proposed changes to the state pension age, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Historically, the rewards of automation, such as higher productivity and lower operating costs, have only benefitted owners and senior leadership rather than the entire workforce, argued the federation, which represents more than 50 unions in England and Wales.

In the Shaping Our Digital Future report, published on Monday, the TUC argued that although the workplace has seen significant disruption through digitisation and the use of robotics, workers have not been equipped to deal with the change.

Almost one in three workers were employed in manufacturing in the 1950s, the report said,, while one in twelve worked in professional and technical services.

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These figures have since reversed, according to the report, but industrial-based roles lost through automation have not been replaced by jobs of similar quality, and wages in that sector remain 10% below the national average.

GDP could be 10% higher in 2030 due to benefits from AI, outlines research by PwC quoted in the report, and TUC argued that this could be used to help reduce the need for employees to work into their late 60s.

"With the UK failing to make productivity gains in the last decade, we need to make the most of the economic opportunities that new technologies are offering," said TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady. "Robots and AI could let us produce more for less, boosting national prosperity. But we need a debate about who benefits from this wealth."

Proposals to increase the state pension age to 68 were controversially brought forward seven years to 2037 and 2039, expected to affect seven million people in their 30s and 40s.

Revenue generated from automation could be used to reverse this policy, according to the TUC, as well as allow businesses to improve pay and working conditions for their employees.

"Robots are not just terminators," added O'Grady. "Some of today's jobs will not survive, but new jobs will be created. We must make sure that tomorrow's jobs are no worse than today's. They must provide fulfilling work, with good pay and conditions."

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