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February 1, 2024

IFOW February 2024 Newsletter | The view from IFOW

With the Digital Markets Competition and Consumers Bill in Grand Committee in the House of Lords at the end of January, IFOW were proud to have supported cross-party table amends submitted by the APPG on the Future of Work.

The purpose of these amendments was to increase the Competition and Markets Authority's tools for assessing impacts, sharing information and knowledge, and enhancing regulatory cooperation. Beyond 'ruling on mergers,' we know that as digital markets become more sophisticated and pervasive, competition and consumer law will have to respond to new mechanisms for impact and categories of harm - a view affirmed in a very good speech by the Chief Executive of the CMA last week as it launched its report on competition and market power in UK labour markets. Watch the first day’s debate on the Bill here, where IFOW was cited a number of times.

In the context of an ever richer agenda for AI legislation and governance, we are excited and committed to supporting the APPG on the Future of Work and will continue its focused agenda to advance understanding and build practical solutions in response to key challenges and opportunities aimed at shaping a future of better work across the UK. Following a well-attended AGM, we are looking forward to another thriving year helping to bring academics, civil society and industry together with MPs and Peers to improve understanding about this vital area.

Anna, Abby and the IFOW team

Deep Dive - Cities Outlook 2024

The Centre for Cities published its Cities Outlook 2024 last week, an ‘annual health check of the economic performance of urban Britain.’ Its findings present a stark picture: all but two cities saw job growth, but productivity hardly rose, and in-work poverty was up almost everywhere. Most worryingly, the north-south divide has widened further. In 2010, 38.9 per cent of all jobs were in the Greater South East. By 2022 this had risen to 40.9 per cent.

These figures raise concerns about the amount of good work being created in our economy as it sees high levels of automation and AI adoption. Early analysis from our 2024 Good Work Times Series – being released in the next few weeks – shows a similar picture across many of the 203 Local Authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, with widening inequality and – despite new workplace technologies being deployed – the amount of routine work not declining as a result.

The conclusion is that the levelling up agenda needs to be “backed by a multidecade policy programme akin to the German reunification project.” That speaks to both the scale of the problem, and the ambition required to tackle it.

Interesting Reads / Listens

How can education and skills policy in England boost productivity?

A new piece by the Economics Observatory, using research from the UK Productivity Institute, examines the complex and fractured picture of skills policy in England, and what changes ought to be made. One recommendation is the extension of full expensing for businesses to provide training - something we called for in the last Autumn Statement - so that there are incentives to invest in people, not just new machinery.

Thriving in an Age of Continuous Reinvention

PwC last week published its Annual Global CEO Survey, which emphasises the current culture of 'continuous reinvention'. It also has a section on the challenges and opportunities of AI, with survey findings showing just how quickly generative AI is expected to transform businesses. Whether it will though - as our report from September sets out, based on a survey of 1000 UK firms - will depend on management culture, with high-engagement HR practices proving fundamental to technology adoption that promotes good work.

Measuring Justice: Field Notes on Algorithmic Impact Assessments

Algorithmic Impact Assessments are not (yet) legally mandated, and are not commonly performed. Data and Society’s AIMLab is experimenting with what it looks like to assess how algorithms impact people’s lives, choices, and access to essential services. Read about the work here, and find out about our Good Work AIA - focused on a method that engages workers - here.

Generative AI’S Labor Impacts - Part One: Hierarchy

Data and Society has also been running a series of events exploring the impact of generative AI on work. The first - on Jan 18th - looked at hierarchies and can be listened back to here. The second part is on Feb 8th. Info on that event here.

EU Commission readies establishment of AI Office

The European Commission is set to adopt a decision establishing the European Artificial Intelligence Office, according to this report from Euractiv. Our policy tracker on how different countries and blocks are legislating around AI has just been updated, and can be found here.  

Has the government learned the lessons of the Post Office Scandal in time to fix the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill?

Dr Natalie Byrom argues in The Times (£) that 'the current bill offers an unprecedented opportunity to rebalance the law in favour of those who, like the postmasters, are subject to the decisions of computer systems. However far from strengthening provisions that support people to access information about how such programmes operate, the bill, in its current form, is set to weaken them.'

Somewhere on Earth podcast - 'connecting people, business and technology'

Born from the BBC World Service's 'Digital Planet' programme, Somewhere on Earth explores the untold tech stories, connecting people and companies to important tech news to create an accessible tech-for-good ecosystem. Recent episodes have covered the cost of internet shutdowns, the carbon footprint of AI and using technology to tackle youth unemployment.


Labour market frictions - A VoxDevLit Launch Event (5th Feb, online)

During this one-hour event, Stefano Caria and Kate Orkin will outline the key takeaways from evidence documenting the labour market barriers faced by jobseekers and firms in low and lower-middle income countries, and evaluate the impacts of a wide set of interventions designed to address these barriers. Further information here.

'Datafied': How data and AI policy will impact all areas of progressive action, and what civil society can do about it? (13th Feb, online)

Almost every modern policy reform relies on new data systems, and increasingly involves technologies labelled as AI to make and shape decisions, whether that’s education, health, benefits, housing, social care, work, policing, democratic engagement or a multitude of other areas. Connected by Data is hosting a free virtual workshop for civil society and campaigners to get to grips with policy impacts of data and AI. Further information and booking here.

Ending Stagnation - How can we boost economic prosperity across Britain? (29th Feb, Nottingham)

The Resolution Foundation recently published its 'Ending Stagnation' report as part of the Economy 2030 Inquiry. The Foundation has been running events on this across the country, and has one in Nottingham at the end of the month. Find out more here.

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.  

ELSA workshop on generative AI and creative arts (18th March, London)

A panel of top experts and researchers led by Dr Adrian Weller and Dr Umang Bhatt will discuss the transformative impact of generated AI content on the creative arts and their legal implications. Further information and booking link here.

Thank you for your time and interest.

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Anna Thomas MBE


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