The UK government, which has a pretty poor record on understanding tech in general, is planning to replace all the care workers its new immigration rules will shut out with, er, robots. Or software. Or something. Honestly, it's not really clear.
In its explanation of the UK's new points-based system, the government says:
"We will not introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route. We need to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust."
It then goes on to say:
"UK businesses will need to adapt and adjust to the end of free movement, and we will not seek to recreate the outcomes from free movement within the points-based system. As such, it is important that employers move away from a reliance on the UK’s immigration system as an alternative to investment in staff retention, productivity, and wider investment in technology and automation."
That's it, that's the whole explanation. No actual details on how any of this will work, just "no lower-skilled immigrant workers for you anymore, deal with it."
Unsurprisingly, the reaction to this has been swift and fierce (from humans – robots are presumably more excited). The wonderful Noel Sharkey, former Robot Wars judge and professor of AI and robotics at Sheffield University, doesn't hold back:
"I think this is a ridiculous idea and it’s really going to have very severe consequences for our aging population.
You need to sit by peoples’ bedsides, you need to hold old peoples’ hands … putting them in the hands of machines would be a ridiculous idea for a start."
Well, yes, they don't even have hands.
Unfortunately, the government doesn't seem to really comprehend how many essential jobs in society are currently performed by immigrants from the EU and beyond, and that vague words about "automation" and "retention" won't mean there are suddenly British people available and willing to do those jobs.
The new rules say you need to earn a minimum of £25,600 to even be able to apply to come here, which bars many care workers – in a sector where there are already not enough staff to go around. The government considers these roles "low-skilled," which is hilarious to anyone who's even done work experience as a carer. We're not convinced Boris would last a week.
While some robots have been developed that are intended to help with caring, food service and suchlike, they're nowhere near ready to actually replace humans on a wide scale, plus, um, they're really expensive. This feels like a terribly thought-through plan as ever, bravo everyone. [TheNextWeb]