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Published: 05/09/2017

Whether you're embracing the technological revolution or harbour fears of a robot-led apocalypse, it can't be denied that there are some areas in which robots could make our lives a whole lot easier – and some even think it could mean we get to enjoy retirement for longer.

That's according to a new report published by the Trade Union Congress (TUC), which argues that "the economic gains from digitisation, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) should be used to benefit working people", for example by reversing policies to raise the state pension age, potentially meaning that the planned increases to age 70
and beyond may not have to come to fruition.

The Shaping Our Digital Future report explores how the next technological revolution will impact on jobs and wages, and calls on the Government, business and trade unions to work together to mitigate disruption to working people's lives and maximise opportunities for them to benefit.

Changing workforce

Technological advancement means the nature of work is changing, and while that means some jobs won't be around forever, it also opens up plenty of opportunity for retraining – and for workers themselves to benefit.

For example, the use of robots in certain industries could boost productivity and therefore income, which the TUC is proposing could be used to stop planned increases to the state pension age and/or boost wages. It's also calling for everyone to get a mid-life career review and for more investment to be put into workplace training, and for targeted retraining programmes for those who could face redundancy as a result of industrial change.

"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, and how workers get a fair share.

"We should look on the changes ahead as an opportunity to improve the lives of working people and their families. The Government could use the revenue generated to reverse policies to raise the state pension age, and businesses could use productivity gains to improve the pay and conditions of workers.

"Robots are not just terminators. 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. And there must be funding to train people for new work if their job is made obsolete."

Prepare for the revolution – or just for retirement

It may sound like a slightly terrifying prospect, but as Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, points out, robots in the workforce could actually be incredibly beneficial.

"Firstly, greater use of technology should allow people to remain economically active, working in less stressful and physically demanding jobs for longer," she explained. "In turn, this may give people more flexibility when they wish to retire.

"Secondly, technology has the potential to create greater workforce productivity, [which] is typically associated with higher wages that should be shared across society and enable greater long-term saving by individuals. The combination of higher incomes and the ability to work for longer makes the possibility of a sustainable income later in life more achievable."

It therefore has the potential to not only boost wages, but could even enable people to retire earlier, or could ensure that they needn't work in such labour-intensive jobs for as long as has been common.

But, ultimately, whether or not robots become mainstream in the workforce, one thing remains clear – you need to make sure you've got your finances sorted, early retirement or otherwise.

"In an ever-changing world you never know what your personal journey will look like, so it's always best to have a plan and try and save for different eventualities," said Kate, and that means you'll want to save as much as possible from as early as you can, giving you the best possible chance of having a decent retirement income.

What next?

Find out more about why you need a workplace pension

Consider a cash ISA for added saving potential, or perhaps a stocks & shares version or Lifetime ISA.


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