Blog and news
October 13, 2020

Welcome to the IFOW Newsletter

Welcome to our first monthly update. At this time of huge upheaval, the Future of Work has become a central part of our national debate. The benefits and enormous challenges of the ongoing digital technological revolution has been cast into sharp relief.

The pandemic has overturned the way we have all been communicating and interacting. Email and webinars are more important than ever. So we are keen to begin more regular communications with you: our network of partners in building a better future of work through technological change – a goal that is more relevant than ever.

In the coming months, we’ll let you know what we’ve been up to, share what we’ve got coming up, and steer you to some of the most interesting work that’s been published.

This update lets you know about our work to highlight the impacts of COVID-19 on working lives; gives a quick glimpse of our exciting interactive maps that explore the links between work and health; and some of the best bits of other people’s work that we’ve spotted and wanted to share.

What we’ve been doing

Like many other organisations responding to COVID-19, we’ve moved our operations to home working – combining BAU and pushing forward new COVID-19 focused workstreams.

Working remotely, we’re aware of how lucky we are. To focus on people feeling the impact of the pandemic on their working lives, we are producing a series of short ‘Spotlight’ reports to draw attention to the implications of COVID-19 on UK workers in a range of different contexts. The first of these, available here, explored the risks to those working in delivery services, adding human stories to statistics from colleagues which highlight the need for additional support for self-employed and contract workers.  Our second Spotlight, ‘Are We Key Workers?’ was a collaboration with the winner of our first Future of Work Challenge winner, Earwig, a rating platform co-created with workers exploring old and new challenges in the construction industry. We submitted both Spotlights to the BEIS inquiry here and encourage you to share your experiences and concerns too.

We’ve helped MPs with motions, questions and briefs on a range of COVID-19 related policy debates, including Early Day Motions here and here, and supported the proposal by the SNP to explore options for Universal Basic Income.

Our Trustees gave two of the last public lectures on the Future of Work. IFOW Co-Chair Naomi Climer spoke at the Employee Ownership Association which you can watch here, and Anne-Marie Imafidon gave the first Turing Lecture, just uploaded on YouTube here. IFOW Co-Chair Chris Pissarides has co-authored a paper, published by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, applying economic insights from the way people make labour market decisions to enhance epidemiological models in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic.

We’ve also been shaping debate through the media. Anna, our Director, has been on Newsnight, Dispatches and has been published in the Independentand FT with Chris.

IFOW Trustee and Head Stemette Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon delivered the February Turing Lecture on  "AI and the Future of Work" at the Alan Turing Institute. You can find some key takeaways from the day    here   .
IFOW Trustee and Head Stemette Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon delivered the February Turing Lecture on "AI and the Future of Work" at the Alan Turing Institute. You can find some key takeaways from the day here.

What we’ve got coming up

Sam, our Head of Operations, has been working with research fellow Jonathan, the UCL Global Health team and Opinium to create a monitor which maps the relationship between good work and health – exploring data-based relationships through a novel algorithm which allows for clustering. Expect data-packed maps and a clear demonstration that health and the economy cannot be understood as separate issues. This has been brought into sharp relief for society by COVID-19. These graphics will reveal unexpected links and show where the challenges are starkest.

IFOW - Map from upcoming "Good Work Monitor" Publication
IFOW - Map from upcoming "Good Work Monitor" Publication

Abby and Anna have been working with Logan, Josh and partners at the Data Justice Lab to critique tools used to audit AI systems used for hiring – something we’ve noticed is kicking off through the pandemic. This is a spin-out from work for the Equality Task Force and builds on our Machine Learning case studies, which you can read here. We’ll be publishing the report and proposal for a new Equality Impact Assessment later this month, and hope you’ll work with us to make it better and pilot it over the next year.

We’re also planning a big re-launch of our website, which our Office Manager Paula is working on with our Head of Comms, John, to deliver ASAP. Stay tuned for a Digital Library which will become a store of the best work explaining trends in the future of work, and a media centre which will collate the work and upcoming events of our own and others shaping Future of Work debates.

Staying in the Know

We’re offering subscribers the chance to receive another update from us each month – a Future of Work Geeks Update. This will list provocative publications, blogs, online lectures and academic articles so you can stay ahead of the debate. Subscribe here to receive this additional publication.

At IFOW we’re thinking about the different ways in which COVID-19, overlaying the technological revolution, will impact work. Our blog on 5 Trends to Watch can be found here. Our favourite reads this month include a new paper on use of mobile phone data to assess the relationship between compliance with ‘shelter in place’ or stay put policies, and other factors. It finds that tariff-induced economic dislocation, resulting from the US trade war, reduces compliance by around a third. In the UK the debate about the unequal impact of COVID-19 has also been significant.

This relates to wider questions about potential long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the economy. We may need to consider the impact of the pandemic on international trade, investment and supply chains, as explored in this video from Professor Peter van Bergeijk. This video shows Dr Shumaker discuss artificial intelligence, covering everything from China’s reporting of coronavirus, through to the offshoring of jobs.

This podcast debates whether privacy should be sacrificed in a pandemic, with data-driven technology used to end a lockdown sooner. The relevance of these trade-offs are significant, given the known risks of long-term unemployment, as highlighted by Angus Deaton, who supported our inaugural Future of Work Conference in Westminster last year, in this new video.

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