“There is a lack of data about how quickly employers in the UK are adopting new technology. If DWP is to respond effectively to changes in the world of work, it needs a stronger evidence base about the real-time impact of new technology in the workplace. We recommend that, as a starting point, the ONS should add questions about technology adoption to its Annual Business Survey, as the Institute for the Future of Work has suggested. Possible questions could ask about the purpose of adopting new technology, and whether this has affected the number or nature of tasks performed by humans"
In the Autumn 2021 Budget and Spending Review, Chancellor Rishi Sunak allocated £294m to the UK Statistics Authority to fund new core statistics and a new Labour Market Survey with the aim of improving labour market intelligence across government, as the Institute for the Future of Work has recommended since the first Future of Work Commission.
Director Anna Thomas, in evidence given to the DWP Committee in March 2021, explained how more detailed labour market statistics would help trace the impacts of technological disruption on people and communities to better inform policy. and wrote a follow up letter to the Committee in response to direct questions from Siobhan Baillie MP in the inquiry. Cited in the DWP final inquiry report and recommendations on improving data relevant to future of work trends, Anna explained:
‘There are challenges involved in assessing the impact and pace of automation in the workplace…there is very little data in the UK on tech adoption by firms, so there are factors that could make this better. The ONS, for example, could add regular technology survey questions to its existing material, which would be super helpful for academics and others. We also do not have task-based data and are reliant on the US O*NET survey at the moment. If we had those, we could work out much more closely the relationship between automation and work’.
The Institute welcomes this important step and looks forward to working with the ONS and Treasury to help shape the new survey and database.