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July 29, 2022

IFOW Newsletter July 2022 | The view from IFOW

Dear Friends of IFOW,

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently developed the Good Work Framework, which aims to help companies establish a new benchmark for job quality by providing a consistent and goal-oriented approach to the development of comprehensive people strategies and to guide measurable actions to promote good work.

Anna has written for the WEF on how the development of the framework marks a rapid, international response to new evidence that good quality work promotes wellbeing, builds resilience and reduces different kinds of inequality.

The framework is one of many 'soft laws' that we have mapped against each of the ten principles that make up our Good Work Charter, which you can explore alongside international and national regulations and technology-specific guidance.

Secondly, we're delighted to invite you to The Future of Work and Wellbeing Conference, which we holding as part of the Pissarides Review into the Future of Work and Wellbeing. This is a full-day conference taking place at the IET London: Savoy Place on Monday 12 September, where we will be joined by internationally-renowned experts to explore the latest perspectives from research, policy and practice on how automation technologies are transforming work, society and the economy.

The conference is open for people to attend in person, and will be followed by a drinks reception. It will also be broadcast online with thanks to IET.tv.

We hope you can join us!

We also have a live opportunity to join the Pissarides Review team, and work alongside Nobel-prize winning economist, Sir Christopher Pissarides to lead on the Local Area Survey, which is looking at the impacts of automation on work and wellbeing and relationship between technological change and worker capabilities.

This is a Post-doctoral researcher position, and candidates will have a PhD or equivalent research in a relevant field such as Economics, Health Economics, Sociology, Political Science, Public Policy, Psychology, or Development Studies. Find out more and apply by Friday 5 August.

Finally, we're pleased to announce that Anna has joined the Digit Advisory Board with four other members. The Digital Futures at Work Research Centre (Digit) carries out high-quality research on the way that digital technologies are reshaping work, and we're looking forward to being able to support them with advice on their strategic direction. Digit also announced this week the four successful applicants of the third round of the Digit Innovation Fund:

  • Cassandra Bowkett, University of Manchester, Industry 4.0 and the role of Human Resource Managers
  • Louise Hickman, University of Cambridge, The Digitalisation of Access Work: fiction to policy recommendations
  • Krystallia Moysidou, University of Sussex, Crowdwork in the creative industry: The case of subscription crowdfunding
  • Rebecca Taylor, University of Southampton, Beyond organisational boundaries: Open source digital infrastructure in the delivery of products and services

Congratulations to the awardees, we look forward to seeing the results of their work.

Anna and the Institute for the Future of Work team

Deep dive – Flexible/hybrid working

Earlier this month we hosted an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Future of Work event in Westminster on flexible and hybrid working. Ironically, the 'hybrid' part of the event didn't quite work out, as we had some technical issues. But despite this, the discussion was full of insight from experts on the extent to which flexible working is, or isn't improving the way we work and the potential business and health and wellbeing case for flexible/hybrid working.

You can read back an edited transcript of the conversation, and watch back an edited recording of the session here:

More on flexible/hybrid working:

  • The ONS has compared data from the 2019 and 2022 Labour Force Survey to examine how increased levels of home working have affected where workers spend most of their working hours across the UK.
  • Nicholas Bloom, Ruobing Han and James Liang have published the findings of a randomised control trial on 1612 engineers, and marketing and finance employees of a large technology firm that allowed odd-birthday employees to work from home on Wednesday and Friday, while even-birthday employees worked full time in the office.
  • The World Economic Forum finds that flexible work is favoured over a four-day working week.

Interesting reads

APPG on Poverty publishes report on in-work poverty
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Poverty has published a comprehensive report looking at what Government and employers can do to address the increase of in-work poverty. The report is based on responses to a call for evidence, and explores the causes of in-work poverty and its disproportionate impact on certain groups in society. The report also sets out the following recommendations:

For Government:

  • Bring forward the Employment Bill, which should include new rights to increase job security.
  • Lead by example and adopt the Real Living Wage for all staff directly and indirectly employed by central government.  
  • Ensure the social security system is adequate.
  • Invest in children's services.
  • Improve work progression and invest in adult skills.

For employers:

  • Increase pay and become Living Wage Foundation-accredited employers.
  • Offer flexible, and other parent-friendly policies.

Using artificial intelligence in the workplace: What are the main ethical risks?

This OECD paper reviews possible risks of the use of AI in the workplace in terms of human rights (privacy, fairness, agency and dignity); transparency and explainability; robustness, safety and security; and accountability. It also reviews ongoing policy action to promote trustworthy use of AI in the workplace. It recommends that existing legislation to ensure ethical workplaces must be enforced effectively, and serve as the foundation of new policy. The report also states that economy- and society-wide initiatives on AI, such as the EU AI Act and standard-setting, can also play a role, while new workplace-specific measures and collective agreements can help fill remaining gaps.

The impact of mechanisation on wages and employment: Evidence from the diffusion of steam power

Leonardo Ridolfi, Carla Salvo and Jacob Weisdorf consider one of the most significant waves of mechanisation in history – the rise and spread of steam power in 19th century France – to examine the influence of mechanisation on labour outcomes. They find that rather than cutting jobs and wages, steam-adopting industries ended up employing up to 94% more workers than their non-steam-adopting counterparts, and paid wages that were up to 5% higher.

Rise and grind: microwork and hustle culture in the UK

Autonomy has published a new report that shares the findings of research on the working conditions of microworkers on digital platforms in order to draw a set of policy interventions to enhance their working conditions, which include:

  • 'Finders fees' and payment for pre-task tests to ensure that all the time microworkers actually spend working is renumerated.
  • Ratings systems for contractors so that bad employers can be spotted.
  • Worker-messaging systems are legally mandated for each site so that key issues can be improved.
  • Microworkers have the right to collective bargaining. This would sit alongside a 'Fair Microwork Charter', which would set out best practice for microwork employers.

Global analysis of worker protests in digital labour platforms

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has published a working paper, which presents the findings from the Leeds Index of Platform Labour Protest, a database of worker protest events around the world in four platform sectors: ride-hailing, food delivery, courier services and grocery delivery for the period January 2017 to July 2020. The findings show that the single most important cause of platform worker protest is pay, followed by employment status and health and safety.

Countermeasures: the need for new legislation to govern biometric technologies in the UK

The Ada Lovelace Institute has published the culmination of a three-year programme of work on biometric governance, which draws on public engagement research on attitudes towards biometric technology, an independent legal review led by Matthew Ryder QC and desk research. The report includes several case studies, one of which focuses on the use of emotion identification in hiring. The legislation they propose to address the potential risks of these systems, would require vendors to demonstrate their systems meet standards of accuracy, reliability and validity prior to use in a real-world hiring situation.

A capability approach to worker dignity under algorithmic management

Laura Lamers, Jeroen Meijerink, Giedo Jansen and Mieke Boon have written an article that highlights how companies are increasingly turning to algorithmic systems to enhance efficiency in many areas, including for example, staffing, task matching and to evaluate or appraise performance. However, this has come at the cost of potentially instrumentalising and dehumanising workers. The authors endorse a capabilities approach, inspired by the work of Amartya Sen, which proposes that workers should have the freedom to determine who they wish to be, or what they wish to reasonably do at work.

The Pissarides Review into the Future of Work and Wellbeing is also taking a capabilities approach to studying automation and work life. Through focus groups, interview and surveys, workers will share their exposure to automated technology, freedoms and work and wellbeing.

When managers rely on algorithms of suspicion: Fraud logics and their fallouts

Lilly Irani writes for the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) on research into Amazon Mechanical Turk and its fraud algorithm, and identifies loopholes in the legal protections for US workers who have been wrongly accused of fraud. The essay is part of a series examining platform governance from four distinct policy angles: content, data, competition and infrastructure.

Events

Increasing AI tool adoption by frontline workers
16:00-17:00 BST | Thursday 11 August 2022
MIT Sloan Management Review is hosting a free webinar and Q&A with Kate Kellogg, Mark Sendak and Suresh Balu, who share the findings of their research on AI adoption in businesses. They find that when developers make sure to address end users’ concerns about workflow and autonomy, they can reconcile conflicting stakeholder interests and ensure ready adoption of AI tools.

The Future of Work and Wellbeing Conference
09:00-17:00 BST | Monday 12 September 2022
As part of the Pissarides Review into the Future of Work and Wellbeing, we're delighted to be hosting a full-day conference to explore the latest perspectives from research, policy and practice on how automation technologies are transforming work, society and the economy.

The conference is open for people to attend in person at the IET London: Savoy Place, and will be broadcast online with thanks to IET.tv.

Employment and Skills Convention 2022
09:15-17:30 BST | Tuesday 13 September 2022
The Learning and Work Institute host their annual Employment and Skills Convention, which brings together politicians, policymakers and practitioners from across the employment and skills sectors to explore the biggest labour market challenges of our time. The convention is being held in person at The Eastside Rooms in Birmingham.

Opportunities

Post-doctoral researcher
The Institute for the Future of Work is hiring a Post-doctoral researcher to work on the Pissarides Review into the Future of Work and Wellbeing, which is exploring the impacts of technological disruption on people and communities across the UK. This is an incredible opportunity to work alongside Nobel-prize winning economist Sir Christopher Pissarides, and other leading academics.

Applicants should hold a PhD or equivalent in a relevant field such as Economics, Health Economics, Sociology, Political Science, Public Policy, Psychology or Development Studies.
Find out more and apply by Friday 5 August 2022.

Programmes Lead at Huddlecraft
Huddlecraft, helps people and organisations climb the steep, collective learning curves we face in the 21st Century, and they are looking for a strategic, capable and welcoming Programmes Lead to manage their two key training offers from recruitment to finish: the Host Fellowship and Huddlecraft 101.
Find out more and apply by 11 August 2022. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis.

The Churchill Fellowship – Resilient economies and communities
The Churchill Fellowship has announced a new scheme to explore ideas from around the world to build resilience in UK communities through increasing economic activity and opportunity. Fellowships in the new Resilient economies and communities theme will open for applications to all UK citizens on Tuesday 13 September 2022, and closes on Tuesday 22 November 2022.

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
team@ifow.org.

Author

Anna Thomas

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