Brexit voting areas most at risk of heavy job losses from automation

Thousands of Leave supporters gathered in Parliament Square to protest against the delay to Brexit, on the day the UK had been due to leave the EU on 29th March 2019 in London, United Kingdom. As parliament debated and voted inside the commons, rejecting the Withdrawal Agreement again, outside in Westminster various groups of demonstrators including the Yellow Jackets, Leave Means Leave supporters and the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, gathered to voice their wish to leave the European Union, and their frustration that Brexit is not being delivered, waving Union flags and Believe in Britain placards. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Leave supporters gather in Parliament Square to protest against the delay to Brexit. Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

Areas where people voted for Brexit by the largest margins are most likely to face job losses from automation, according to a new report.

Thinktank Onward found a strong correlation between the risk of automation an area faces and how an area voted in the EU referendum. The highest local authority for risk of automation is Corby, which had a “Leave” vote share of 64%. The most resilient local authority to automation is the City of London, which had an approximate “Leave” vote share of only 25%.

Of the 50 local authorities most likely to be affected negatively by automation, 48 voted for Leave in the 2016 Referendum and 43 voted for the Brexit Party in the European Elections in May. Among the 50 local authorities least likely to be negatively affected by automation, 42 voted Remain in the 2016 Referendum.

Onward also found the people most at risk from automation were more likely to be women, as well as from an ethnic minority. While four out of 10 men are working in expanding sectors, only two out of 10 women are. Regardless of their level of education, black women are less likely than any other group to be working in a growth industry.

In their report “Human Capital: Why we need a new approach to tackle Britain’s long tail of low skills,” Onward outlined potential policy changes to protect the UK against the threat of automation.

The thinktank proposed a “Retraining Tax Credit,” mirroring current R&D tax credits that were initially implemented in 2000. The tax credits would offer a financial benefit to employers in order to encourage them to get workers to retrain. They would also include a larger financial benefit for small businesses to do the same.

Onward also proposed creating a separate retraining fund similar to the Apprenticeship levy, which forces employers with a wage bill of over £3m to pay an annual 3% Apprenticeship levy minus a £15,000 apprenticeship allowance.

Onward propose splitting the existing Apprenticeship levy scheme in two, with 60% of funding restricted to apprenticeships for younger workers entering their chosen profession. The remaining 40% would go toward a Retraining Fund to help fund low-skilled workers at risk of automation and industrial decline to retrain through the National Retraining Scheme.

Commenting on Onward’s report launch, foreign secretary and Conservative party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt said, “If we are to bring our country back together after Brexit is delivered, we need to seize the opportunity it presents and ensure the benefits are truly spread across the country.”

“Technological change is going to bring huge opportunities but we must equip everyone in our country with the skills they need to benefit. Only by ensuring we leave no communities, regions, or sectors behind will we deliver the economic renewal and higher growth on which our aspirations depend. This report by Onward is hugely impressive and a timely contribution to that challenge.”