Blog and news
October 2, 2023

IFOW newsletter October 2023 | The view from IFOW

September has been a fruitful month across our role as the UK’s leading Future of Work hub, with new research published, new collaborations forged and new workshops convened.

Looking ahead, we are pleased to announce that we will be leading on the Future of Work at the AI Fringe Summit, convening sessions in the main Hub and - in collaboration with Warwick Business School - curating a focused ‘Making the Future Work’ summit at The Shard. It promises to be a fantastic event and we have some stellar names to announce shortly. Space will be limited, so do book a ticket now.

While discussions at Bletchley focus on the future ephemeral ‘x-risk’ of ‘god-like’ AI, our aim is to ground debate in the here-and-now of how work is being transformed and working lives impacted. We will be bringing a rich and diverse set of voices and interdisciplinary research to sessions on regulation, creative industries, health and wellbeing, and what policies a future of good work requires. We sincerely hope that you will join us.

One way for you to stay close to all that we are doing is to join our All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Future of Work, for which we act as Secretariat and Strategic Research Partner. Membership is available for firms, academic institutions, and trades unions and offers member-only opportunities to feed into calls for evidence. Do email team@ifow for more information on becoming a member. Our next event is pencilled in for the 15th November and will be an excellent opportunity to reflect on the AI Summit and the policy and praxis landscape ahead.

Anna, Abby and the IFOW team

Deep Dive: The adoption of AI in UK firms, and the impact on jobs

Last week - following a consultation breakfast with senior policymakers from across government departments - we launched a major new study on the adoption of AI by UK firms, and the impact on jobs. Funded by the Nuffield Foundation as part of the Pissarides Review, this research led by Professor James Hayton was based on a survey of 1000 UK firms.

The findings have significant implications for policy and point to how we can ‘get AI right’ as we navigate this tech transition.

Firstly, adoption is happening quickly across both physical and cognitive tasks, with 80% of firms reporting adoption in the past three years. More importantly though, the study reveals two key factors - 'Regional Innovation Readiness' and HR philosophy - that mediate whether technology adoption positively or negatively impacts levels of good work:

Regional Innovation Readiness is an aggregate score based on the quality of technology infrastructure and the level of available skills among the local workforce. What this chart shows is that when Regional Innovation Readiness is high, the adoption of automation technologies is associated with a positive impact on ‘good work’. But when Regional Innovation Readiness is low, the adoption of automation technologies is associated with decreases in job quality. However, these results are only seen when there is a 'high-involvement' HR philosophy that engages workers in decisions about technology adoption. Read the report for a full analysis of the significant policy implications that these findings suggest.

Interesting reads

AI having a positive impact on UK jobs...

Focusing on the launch of our report last week (see the Deep Dive above), The Guardian has published a piece highlighting the findings, and warning that - unless there is significant extra investment in education and infrastructure - regional inequalities risk being exacerbated.

CIPD Manifesto for Good Work

CIPD have just launched their ‘Manifesto for Good Work’, a "long-term workforce strategy centred on skilled, healthy and fair work.” It calls on the UK Government to drive systemic changes in the ways in which employers recruit, develop and retain their workforces – to create a more productive and sustainable economy and drive the inclusive growth needed to raise living standards for all. This resonates very well with our annual Good Work Monitor that tracks access to Good Work across all 203 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales.

Making AI Work for Britain

Our friends at techUK have a new report published last week on ‘Making AI work for Britain’ that outlines “nine actions for the UK government to support people and businesses to take advantage of AI in the workplace.” These include providing greater clarity for businesses on how the law applies to AI and helping businesses invest in their workforce.

Access Denied?

The Ada Lovelace Institute’s ongoing project investigating health and data has a new publication 'Access Denied?' focused on the potential impacts of digital healthcare delivery. This transformation to digital is intended to fuel innovation and efficiency and improve patient experience. However, there is a risk that it could exacerbate existing health inequalities.

What the world thinks about work

Running since 1981 and covering 120 countries, the WVS is the world’s largest and most widely used social survey. Analysis published by Kings College has found that the UK public are least likely to say work is important in their life and among the least likely to say work should always come first, even if it means less leisure time.  

A New Era of Automation - CogX Festival panel on AI at work

Watch our Director, Anna Thomas, speak on a panel discussing the opportunities and risks for the global workforce in an AI-powered economy, at CogX Festival at the o2 on 14th September. Joining her on the panel were Elliot Dell (CEO of Salt), Shabbir Merali (Director of Intelligence and Research at CogX) and Joshua Wohle (CEO of Mindstone).

Events / Opportunities

AI: Governing the Ungovernable? (2nd October, Manchester)

The Institute for Government is hosting a debate on AI governance at the Conservative Party conference. Our Director and co-founder, Anna Thomas, will be taking part alongside Hetan Shah of the British Academy and Paul Scully MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DSIT. Anna will also be taking part in a session on Innovation and Inclusivity, hosted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, alongside George Freeman MP and Chloe Smith MP.

How can a Labour Government work with employers to deliver high-quality, secure and rewarding jobs? (9th October, Liverpool)

The Work Foundation - based at the University of Lancaster - is hosting a panel discussion at the Labour Party conference focused on good work. Our Director, Anna Thomas, will be at the conference and speaking on a panel with the Institute for Government on AI regulation, and on Breaking Down Barriers in Professions, in an event hosted by the New Statesman. If you are at party conferences, do get in touch and we'd be delighted to catch up about the work that we are doing.

Sustainable and equitable cities and regions for a net zero world (18th October, University of St Andrews)

Our report on AI adoption published last week shows how important Regional Innovation Readiness is if AI is to lead to better-quality jobs. Connectedly, delivering an economy that is both sustainable and equitable means overcoming geographic inequalities and investing in physical and digital infrastructure. This event hosted by the Alan Turing Institute will be a mix of workshops and panel discussions exploring these issues.

AI in Work and Skills (8th November, London)

With their new report as a focus, techUK and Careers Camp are hosting an ‘AI in Work and Skills’ forum. It will bring together industry leaders, AI experts, and professionals from various sectors to discuss the latest advancements, trends, and challenges in the field of AI.

If you enjoyed this newsletter and know someone else who would benefit from it, please do share it with them. You can sign up to receive it each month using the form below.


Anna Thomas


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