Blog and news
February 28, 2022

IFOW Newsletter February 2022 | The view from IFOW

Dear Friends of IFOW,

Last month we published the latest edition of the Good Work Time Series, which tracks trends in good work across local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland.

This came just before the UK Government published its much anticipated Levelling Up White Paper, which promises to transform the UK, and which aims to see everyone, wherever they live and whatever their background, develop their capabilities in ways that will enable them to flourish as human beings.

In response, I have written for our blog on why to achieve these aims, work – or more precisely access to good work – needs to be central.

In the piece, I outline three recommendations to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which we believe are vital if they are to achieve their stated ambition to support people across the UK to live ‘happy and fulfilling lives’. These are:

  1. Developing a Future of Work Strategy with local and regional partners to enable local government, armed with new powers, to invest and build the conditions for good work strategically, with longer term objectives in mind.
  2. Aligning technology policy with the Levelling Up missions to ensure that we are proactive in shaping ‘good’ automation and the creation of ‘good’ jobs.
  3. Promoting local pilots and peer learning so that local authorities facing similar challenges can club together in ‘compacts’ to request additional powers and funding for this purpose.

Another response to the paper that’s worth a look is the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ analysis highlighting potential challenges in upholding the ambitions of the White Paper, especially when it comes to its funding commitments. We’re pleased to see the Work Foundation also stressing the centrality of good work to levelling up, which should include reversing wage stagnation and responding to the rise of worker insecurity.

Coming up in the next month, we are looking forward to officially launching our Pissarides Review into the Future of Work and Wellbeing – a new three-year research project funded by the Nuffield Foundation, which will focus specifically on examining the impacts of technological disruption on people and communities across the UK.

For this project, the Department of Mathematics at Imperial College London is recruiting a Research Associate in Applied Mathematics for Economic Systems, which will involve quantifying the extent to which local economies have been disrupted by the automation of work. Apply by Tuesday 29 March 2022. Find out more and apply here.

Best wishes,

Anna and the Institute for the Future of Work team

Anna Thomas
Institute for the Future of Work

Interesting reads

Digital technology: A guide for union representatives

This month Prospect Union published a practical guide for union representatives for when technology is introduced at work, and provides information, help and advice for union reps and volunteers to challenge, negotiate and bargain over digital technology and how our data is used by employers. The report outlines the following four-stage process, developed by the Institute, to help unions and businesses collaborate to unlock the benefits of digital technologies at work, whilst minimising the risks for working people.

February’s labour market statistics

This month’s Labour market statistics highlight post-pandemic job churn and record vacancies, and how vulnerable ‘outsiders’ are on the up, especially women over 50 (see the Institute for Employment Studies for analysis). But the TUC has published a report that looks specifically into the significant increase in older workers leaving the labour market before reaching state pension age, and offers recommendations for creating a more inclusive labour market.

Towards the end of January, the DWP announced its ‘Way to Work’ programme with an aim to get more than 500,000 Universal Credit claimants into work by June by heavily reducing the time frame by which claimants are able to apply to jobs within their previous occupation or sector. The Work Foundation has written an analysis of the proposal, asserting that the changes risk deepening inequalities and job insecurity. The programme may result in people being disempowered and counterproductive by pushing them in any job regardless of suitability.

New jobs or technological unemployment?

Marco Magnani writes for Making the global economy work for everyone on how in the past, innovation has led to job sacrifice in the short term, but has led to productivity gains, rise in average wages, increase of size of economy and job creation. This, however cannot be assumed in the future amid stagnant economies or a downturn, and innovation may in fact pave the way for technological unemployment.

But taking the aim of supporting policy-makers to help both workers and their employers through current challenges brought upon by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the World Economic Forum has published a tool that asserts that the most useful approaches take into account shifting demographics, changing jobs roles and will leverage disruption as a means to design workplaces that genuinely serve everyone’s needs.

Metaverse vs employment law

The Metaverse – the immersive virtual world that’s accessible through wearable technology – is becoming an employment issue. In this piece for the Financial Times (free to access), Kate Beioley writes on how it can be unclear how employee protections apply in this universal digital realm.

Brittan Heller’s report entitled Reimagining Reality: Human Rights and Immersive Technology warns of the privacy-related harms and negative impacts to individual users that emerge from immersive technologies such as VR/AR and calls for a need to assess these technologies from a human-rights lens.

Protecting workers’ health whilst teleworking

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have jointly released a technical brief highlighting the adverse impacts of teleworking on workers’ wellbeing whilst recognising the potential benefits of teleworking such as an increase of work-life balance and higher productivity and flexibility.

The report gives an overview of the roles governments, employers, workers and health services in ensuring health and safety promotion and protections. Among the recommendations, the WHO and ILO advocate for a ‘right to disconnect’ outside of standard working hours and sufficient rest days.

Technology agreements. 1 - Identify the technology and purpose > 2. Assess the impacts of the technology on work > 3. Dialogue and meaningful consultation > 4. Agree on action plan.


Firms, market power, innovation and inequality
09:30-11:00 GMT, Thursday 3 March 2022
An online event from the Institute for Fiscal Studies exploring a range of questions on firms, including the role of firm-level innovation in creating 'good jobs' and driving social mobility on the one hand, and creating rents and market power which drive up and entrench income inequality on the other.

Ethics in AI Colloquium | We, The Robots
17:00 GMT, Thursday 10 March 2022
Should we regulate artificial intelligence? Can we? The next Ethics in AI Colloquium, We, The Robots, brings together Helen Mountfield QC (Institute for the Future of Work Trustee), Professor Simon Chesterman, John Zerilli and Professor John Tasioulas. Watch live on YouTube.

The office strikes back. Can post-pandemic remote working solve our productivity challenge?
17:30 – 18:30 GMT Thu 10 March 2022

The Resolution Foundation hosts Julia Hobsbawm for the launch of her new book – The Nowhere Office.

The Institute is partnering with the Financial Times on their Future of Work conference series. The first event on Wednesday 16 March 2022 focuses on what the shift to post-pandemic flexible-working patterns means for traditional office environments and regional business hubs. For a 20% discount on tickets use code FTIFOW. Register here.

Technology and the future of labour: historical and contemporary perspectives
Thu 24 – Fri 25 Mar 2022

British Academy Conferences brings together leading economic historians and labour economists with policymakers to yield new insights on technological progress, economic growth and the future of labour.

work.txt by Nathan Ellis
Mon 28 Feb – Sat 12 Mar 2022 14:30, 19.15

We’re looking forward to a team outing to the Soho Theatre for this show performed entirely by the audience about the gig economy, financial instability and bullshit jobs.

All performances will be fully captioned.

Thank you for your time and interest. If you enjoyed this, and know someone else that would benefit, please share it with them. If someone has forwarded this to you, and you would like to receive this update yourself, please subscribe here.

If you have any ideas, comments or suggestions for our round-up, please drop us a line at


Anna Thomas MBE


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