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December 1, 2023

IFOW December 2023 Newsletter | The View from IFOW

The year is racing on and we will take this opportunity to wish you the very best for the forthcoming festive season. Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement came bearing gifts for some though - as we explore in this blog post from our three wise men co-founders - there are still opportunities for the incentives for businesses to invest in technology to be matched by similar incentives to invest in people. We would also have liked to have seen – as our research on how to get the best out of AI adoption suggests – more public investment in infrastructure that will mean regional inequalities are reduced.

The run-up to Christmas will also be a busy time working on the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (DPDI) which was prioritised in the King's Speech. We worked with Chris Bryant - Shadow Minister for Creative Industries and Digital – to re-table an amendment to introduce a set of Digital Information Principles at Work that the Secretary of State would have to have regard to when considering legislation. We will be continuing to push for improvements to the Bill as it proceeds.

Looking to 2024, we have major findings that we will be publishing from the Pissarides Review into the Future of Work and Wellbeing. This multi-year project is funded by the Nuffield Foundation, who are hosting a webinar that will profile our work on 24th January. More info below, but we do hope that you will sign up.

Anna, Abby and the IFOW team

Deep Dive: Learning to Grow - the importance of skills to economic strategy

IFOW recently co-published with the Economy 2030 team at the Resolution Foundation, Learning to Grow, emphasising the importance of developing a skills strategy as part of a broader economic strategy.

The report focuses on three sectors of strategic importance for the UK’s future growth and, importantly, that are also a source of good work: financial and business services, creative and cultural sectors, and life sciences. The findings point to the need to invest in more education across the board, particularly to increase the number of future workers with tertiary education and sub-degree qualifications, and for continuous skills development to enable the adaptation of workers already in the market.

Forthcoming work from our Pissarides Review into the Future of Work and Wellbeing, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, in collaboration with the Centre for Economic Performance, expands on this research. Leveraging rich online job postings data, this new work uses cutting-edge machine learning techniques to not only give a granular view of changes in skills requirements since 2016, but also to identify bundles of skills across different dimensions that are resonating with one another. With a particular focus on the tech sector that is driving change, the novel techniques being used in the analysis will offer insights into which skills are emerging and which are disappearing, and quantify the skill turnover across occupations, identifying professions for which requirements are changing incredibly fast. This work emphasises the need for policies that support continuous learning and training of workers in this fast-moving market.

Interesting reads

New business guidance to boost skills and unlock the benefits of AI

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has just published guidance for businesses to 'support them to upskill their workers with the tools they need for jobs alongside AI.'

Created by the Innovate UK BridgeAI programme in partnership with the Alan Turing Institute, this draft is being supported by a consultation period during which organisations are invited to offer feedback on it. Our view is that this lacks a framework for properly engaging worker voices when adopting AI systems, something that is central to our research-driven tool, the Good Work Algorithmic Impact Assessment.

Using AI to support people with disability in the labour market - opportunities and challenges

People with disabilities face persisting difficulties in the labour market and there are concerns that AI, if managed poorly, could further exacerbate these challenges. Yet, AI also has the potential to create more inclusive and accommodating environments and might help remove some of the barriers faced by people with disability in the labour market. Building on interviews with more than 70 stakeholders, this report from the OECD explores the potential of AI to foster employment for people with disabilities.

Investing in Public Transport – regional inequality and impacts on work

Covid-19 had a huge impact on the operation of public transport networks in the UK, and much focus has been on whether ridership will return to pre-Covid levels. But this misses a much broader point that public transport use in large UK cities in particular was way below comparable cities in mainland Europe. This report from the Centre for Cities addresses international lessons for addressing this across UK cities.

This matters because public transport is important for connecting people to jobs, especially in highly concentrated areas such as city centres, alleviating the environmental impacts of transport, and ensuring those who don’t have cars, largely poorer parts of society, are well connected.

Just another cog in the machine? A worker-level view of robotization and tasks

A new Discussion Paper from the Global Labor Organization finds that while robotisation reduces physically demanding activities, the reduction in manual work does not coincide with a shift to more challenging and interesting tasks.

The authors find that robotisation makes workers’ tasks more routine while diminishing the opportunities for cognitively challenging work and human contact. The adverse impact of this robotisation on social tasks is particularly pronounced for highly skilled and educated workers. Our own research has shown that high-engagement HR philosophies can avoid these negative impacts and that investing in people in this way actually leads to better outcomes for firms.

Events / Opportunities

Artificial Intelligence in the Creative Industries (4th December, 230-330pm, online)

In this presentation, Linden Walcott-Burton - expert policy lead for AI in the creative industries at the GLA, and one of the speakers at our recent Making the Future Work conference, will uncover AI's emerging impact on the creative sector, a major powerhouse in the UK economy, and one that is experiencing unique impacts from AI.

Ending Stagnation – a new economic strategy for Britain (4th December, London and online)

The UK has great strengths, but is a decade and a half into a period of stagnation. The combination of slow growth and high inequality is proving toxic for low- and middle-income Britain. This full-day conference will hear from leading UK politicians, economists and policymakers debating the future of the UK economy, including keynote speeches by both a Senior Cabinet Minister and the Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer.

Digital Ethics Summit 2023 - Seizing the moment (6th December, London)

In early December, techUK and partners will bring together world-leading academics, philosophers, lawyers, technology experts, policymakers and other key stakeholders at their timely seventh Digital Ethics Summit. Sessions will include discussion of the AI White Paper and the legal, social, and ethical implications of personalised healthcare. Speakers include Andrew Pakes and Gina Neff, both of whom presented at our recent Making the Future Work event.

Job Quality in the Future World of Work (7th December, London)

The OECD are hosting this webinar discussing how flexibility in where - and when - to work can improve job quality, but also introduces new risks.

Place and Opportunity: a better future for work and skills (24th January, online)

We are pleased to be joining the Resolution Foundation and National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to present new findings from our major Nuffield-funded projects. A panel of policy and business experts from across the country will unpack the research and reflect on what it means for their local areas, before opening to a wider discussion, giving attendees the chance to offer insights and suggestions for new areas of research inquiry.

Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference (12-13th March, NEC Birmingham)

Registration is now open for the UK’s most established workplace health and wellbeing event, at which IFOW researchers will be presenting findings from our Pissarides Review into the Future of Work and Wellbeing, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. You can save £10 on a ticket by booking now.

Thank you for your time and interest.

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Anna Thomas


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