General election 2017: Workers’ rights v robo jobs

Lee Hayhow in his truckImage copyright
Lee Hayhow

Image caption

Lee Hayhow has worked as a lorry driver for five years

Clever computers that learn on the job could recast Britain’s job market – for better or worse. What are the parties vying for power in the general election saying on the subject?

Twenty-nine-year-old Lee Hayhow is the third generation of his family to work as a lorry driver, following his father and grandfather.

He is proud of his job.

“I’ve always enjoyed lorries and driving. I trained as a professional driver. It is a profession.

“You’re almost your own boss – in charge of that vehicle. I always do it to the best of my ability. It’s a good feeling.”

He estimates it costs £3,000 to train as a heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) driver. Mr Hayhow’s employer, O’Donovan Waste Disposal, paid for this, but not all firms do, he says.

And he would be delighted to see the next generation of Hayhows – his two young daughters – follow his career path.

But by then, the decision may not be theirs to take.

Call centres to catering

Lorry driving, like many other jobs that help power the British economy, could be facing a huge shake-up.

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) – a field of computer science in which machines are taught to carry out tasks that require human traits of thought or intelligence – have led some to predict a knock-on catastrophe for jobs.

Nowhere is the exponential growth of AI more apparent than in the race towards self-driving vehicles.

But AI doesn’t stop at transport. There have been stark warnings about its impact on the jobs market as computer programs are honed to perform a number of roles, including call centre work, banking and paralegal responsibilities, retail and catering tasks, and journalism.

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