Will Robotic Process Automation (RPA) reduce jobs in the future?

Written by Abhishek on Jan 2, 2018

Whether machines will replace humans in the job industry is something that many experts are debating on forums and industry related programmes. In the coming years Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has gained tremendous momentum and every Fortune 500 entity is releasing bulks of reports relating to the RPA phenomena and in almost every conference these entities emphasize about the importance of RPAs in the growing technical industry.

The debate that is demanding growing attention is whether RPAs will reduce manual labour in the near future is still a question in its nascent stages and which is yet to be answered. Industry experts, depending on the nature of their business, are either for it or against it.

According to a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte, about 35% of the current jobs in Britain are at a high risk of being computerised over the span of 20 years. It is quite alarming and at the same time dynamic as the industry is progressing towards eliminating menial tasks that could otherwise be handled by robots.

However, many firms argue that the emergence of RPA doesn’t necessarily lead to the loss of jobs, instead it would only eliminate certain redundant tasks. What manual labours do as automated programmes take over some of these jobs might highly be up to them. According to Stanton Jones, director and principal analyst at technology research and advisory firm ISG, not every employee will adapt to the technologies but most will. Whether or not they want to align themselves to recent innovations, but with time employees will assimilate information and execute the same.

Other industry experts assert that RPA will help companies to strategize irrelevant tasks and allow the management to focus on tasks that generate alternate sources of income and revenue.

Reports and case studies shows that if investment in RPA increases, internal costs decreases and when expenditures reduce, the company is in a position to expand and introduce newer business models into the system.

Likewise, there are others who feel that an RPA can disrupt the current balance of power and bring chaos in the industry. Many skilled and even unskilled workers will run out of jobs and even if they are retained, majority of the company resources will go into training employees to administer the programmes. To most experts, “reliance on machines” entirely doesn’t sound feasible.

The key understanding is that, for RPA to be used effectively, it must be guided by human intelligence because robots have their own set of limitations. Robots lack the ability to think freely and independently. In other words they are not humans.

Stressing on the former point that supports RPA, for majority of the firms, robots exist as software or hardware which can only perform a designated function such as transferring and organising information, data collection with great efficiency than human staff. An RPA software is gaining popularity in most companies as a computer-generated workforce, which is solely in into handling crucial office data.

Pros of using RPA instead of manual labour:

  • Cost savings
  • Increased output
  • Simplification of tasks
  • Processing in done faster
  • Minimal errors

Though the debate whether employing RPA continues, another key finding by experts suggest that – to integrate RPA software effectively, they must be assisted by human intelligence. Thus, the argument whether RPAs are replacing jobs renders moot at this point as both the robot and manual labours must work in tandem to achieve the best results. The likability for any robot or RPA are set by human understanding, ensuring individuals remain in control of the workplace. 

However, one cannot deny the fact that RPAs can retire the best employees but as time passes, changes should be implemented. Who knows what the future holds for the industry!