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April 1, 2022

IFOW Newsletter March 2022 | The view from IFOW

Dear Friends of IFOW,

This week we were delighted to officially launch the Pissarides Review into the Future of Work and Wellbeing with a hybrid event hosted at the Nuffield Foundation offices.

The Pissarides Review is a three-year collaboration between the Institute for the Future of Work, Imperial College and Warwick Business School, and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, which aims to build a better future of work by improving our understanding of the impacts of automation on work, society and the economy.

At the launch event, Sir Christopher introduced early insights from the Review, which included a summary of five key trends relating to automation and work most relevant to the Review (more below). Watch back the talk, as well as the evening's panel discussion on the factors influencing, and the impacts of, technological change on work and workers here:

Anna and the Institute for the Future of Work team

Anna Thomas
Institute for the Future of Work

Deep dive – five key trends in automation and work

The Pissarides Review launch report highlights that we are at a critical juncture in which there is a need to re-examine the changing nature and role of work for people and society, and explores five trends relevant to the Review:

1. Innovation is not leading to improvements in job quality. The UK’s rate of innovation has slowed over recent decades, and early evidence suggests that a greater focus is needed on societal impact and human complementarity in the development of automation technologies.

2. The adoption of automation is uneven across the UK. Capital-intensive technologies tend to be more concentrated in particular geographic areas and less integrated into local economies. To date, there appears to be less 'trickle down' of the benefits and opportunities of technology than in past industrial revolutions.

3. Labour market inequalities are growing. Although some studies have predicted a reduction in labour market polarisation as a result of automation, current evidence points to ongoing polarisation between high-skill, high-pay and low-skill, low-pay jobs. Research from the Institute for the Future of Work, and the IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities point to substantive and growing labour market inequalities across the UK.

4. Work is key to health outcomes. Our Good Work Monitor has revealed that good work correlates with a wide range of health measures including life expectancy, life satisfaction, mental health, disease and deaths of despair. We also find that regions of the UK where good work is most available have fared best through the pandemic, with less exposure to COVID-19, and reduced impacts on health, including COVID-19 mortality.

5. Place increasingly defines our experience of work. The UK is characterised by stubborn geographic inequalities, linked to the economic mix in local labour markets which define access to good quality work. Our evidence review demonstrates the need for an updated and more gradual understanding to help ensure regional disparities in the impact of automation do not widen further.

Read more about these trends in our launch report.

Interesting reads

Labour market inequality
New work from the IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities finds that labour market inequalities show a need to boost wage growth of middle earners and low earners in non-traditional employment. The latest chapter of the Review considers key factors that have shaped labour market inequality in the UK over the last four decades, with a focus on technological changes and skill demand, labour market institutions and contract regulation.

Measuring the impact of AI on jobs at the organisation level
A new survey of UK business leaders demonstrates trends in the creation and destruction of jobs when AI is introduced in companies. One interesting finding is that job creation is just as likely as job destruction.

Relatedly, Warwick Business School is designing a firm-level survey for the Pissarides Review to explore the way managerial philosophies shape approaches to the introduction of automation technologies.

Regulating algorithms at work: Lessons for a ‘European approach to artificial intelligence’
Institute for the Future of Work Research Fellow, Jeremias Adams-Prassl, provides an analysis of existing EU regulatory frameworks for AI at work, including data protection, non-discrimination and EU AI Act.

Also on the EU AI Act, this week the Ada Lovelace Institute has published Professor Lilian Edwards’ expert legal opinion, which offers four structural critiques of the proposal, and four related recommendations.

The case for ‘sustainable productivity’ and how to measure it
Studies are pointing to an increase in productivity during the pandemic — and a corresponding increase in employee burnout and disengagement. According to experts who spoke during a recent MIT Sloan Management Review webinar, there’s therefore a need for companies to embrace ‘sustainable productivity’ in order to avoid turnover and protect workers. This requires a focus on employee engagement and wellbeing in addition to traditional metrics such as sales and revenue.

This approach aligns closely with the ten principles outlined in the Institute for the Future of Work’s Good Work Charter – an organising framework designed to encourage commitment and fresh-thinking from government and business about the fundamental components of good work, which goes beyond traditional metrics of success.

Workers say no to increased surveillance since COVID-19
A new survey by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) of 2,209 workers in England and Wales has found a notable increase in the past year in workers reporting surveillance and monitoring, in the form of browser history searches, phone call and keystroke monitoring and in some sectors, the analysis of facial expressions and tone of voice.

The TUC says there is a huge lack of transparency over the use of AI at work, with may staff having no access to knowledge on how technology is being used to make decisions that directly affect them, and calls for a universal right to human review of high-risk decisions made by technology.


Protecting people’s rights in the digital age: The case for a Universal Digital Rights Declaration
14:00 BST | Friday 8 April 2022
Equality Now hosts a panel of experts to discuss why a bold, transformative and universally-agreed feminist Digital Rights Declaration will ensure that the rights of all people, especially the most vulnerable, are protected in the digital space.

In AI we trust. Power, illusion and control of predictive algorithms
14:00-15:00 CET | Tuesday 26 April 2022
A talk with Helga Nowotny, Professor Emerita of Science and Technology Studies at the ETH Zurich, and author of ‘In AI we trust: Power, illusion and control of predictive algorithms’.

The IES Annual Conference 2022: Looking ahead to the future of work
09:00-12:45 BST | Thursday 28 April 2022
The Institute for Employment Studies focuses this year’s annual conference on the new and significant workforce challenges to emerge from the past two years since the pandemic started. The conference will put these challenges into wider context, and aim to stimulate thinking about potential solutions.

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Anna Thomas MBE


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