Parts of the Midlands will be among the hardest hit areas when automation causes job losses, a new report has claimed.
Researchers for the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) say robots taking on skilled and semi-skilled roles will leave many areas vulnerable during a “fourth industrial revolution” – with Dudley among those being cited as most at risk.
With an increase in the use of artificial intelligence and automated production, big cities such as Birmingham and London are expected to fare well when new technologies are introduced.
But the CSJ said towns hit by the collapse of industry in the 1980 could face the prospect of history repeating itself.
The report has called for urgent action and the creation of enterprise zones and financial support for firms being created in the towns most as risk of accelerating economic decline.
Andy Cook, chief executive of the CSJ, said: “Parts of the UK are trapped in a cycle of deprivation that is only set to get worse as the jobs market changes.
“Automation will bring huge positives to the UK economy as a whole, including a much-needed boost to productivity, but not everyone will benefit equally.
“To allow the residents of these ‘left behind’ towns to seize the opportunities in the future jobs market, they need a policy blueprint that provides better transport links, better teachers in schools, better housing and dynamic local leadership to raise aspirations and create opportunities.
“We need to a raft of new measures to bring around a regional revolution. Power must be put in the hands of accountable local leaders, such as the metro mayors, who know where resources would be best used.”
The report added that social factors – such as crime, drug use and educational failure – were also impacting on the ability of some towns to build “economic momentum”.
It added that so-called ‘left-behind areas’ are least likely to attract the jobs of the future, which will mostly be service-based and generated in major cities with good transport links and cultural attractions.
“The loss of jobs linked to deindustrialisation in the second half of the 20th century set off a chain of social and economic repercussions that are still being felt in post-industrial communities today,” the report said.
“From an economic perspective, business closures and lower levels of business investment reduced the opportunities for skilled, well-paid work, leaving many unemployed, dependent on welfare and often without any opportunities for new employment.
“Policy makers have to look at the social problems that have taken hold in some communities.
“If you do not tackle crime, welfare dependency, support better schools, reduce the risk of young people being caught up in gang and drug culture, as well as helping parents stay together to support young children, it will be hard to generate the growth, jobs and economic opportunity some communities so desperately need.”