Women in retail have been the biggest sufferers of the rise of automation in the workplace, figures show.
And those in the North East have suffered the most – as machines, technology and robots replace crucial, paid roles.
That’s according to a new report by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) which said more than 100,000 high street retail jobs have been lost to automation and e-commerce since 2011.
It said retailers have culled a wave of traditionally female-led customer service roles in favour of newer warehouse positions which have mostly gone to men.
Overall, women made up around 70% of the job losses – or 75,000 of the 108,000 total.
The North East and East Midlands suffered an 11% drop in the retail workforce, while London saw a 16% increase during this period, it said.
However, the report said retail’s future was “not all gloomy” and the high street could be saved if retailers moved towards the responsible adoption of new technologies, retraining its workforce with new skills and moving towards “experiential” shopping such as in-store “influencers”.
Fabian Wallace-Stephens, researcher at the RSA’s Future Work Centre, said: “Our research shows that the economic pain that comes with the decline of the high street is not being felt evenly.
“Women are being hit particularly hard, with jobs growth being contained to roles usually filled by men such as delivery drivers.
“That said, we are optimistic that the high street’s decline can be reversed. If retailers collaborate more with each other, offer exciting in-store experiences and make customer service roles higher skilled – with staff becoming more like in-store ‘influencers’ – then we still see a vibrant future for the British High street.”
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