The nature of work is constantly evolving in response to technological innovation. In recent decades containerisation, computers and, latterly, the internet have transformed how we work. Entire categories of jobs have been destroyed and just as many created. Far from pausing, this workplace revolution is set to roll on due to the spread of digital technologies.
This newsletter explores the future of work in the digital economy. The disruption to working patterns brought about by Covid-19 has reinforced anxiety about the impact of artificial intelligence and other technologies. An estimated 10%-40% of jobs in the UK could be partly or fully automated in coming decades. But perhaps the most critical lesson to be learned from the pandemic is that businesses have a choice over how they use technology. Employees can be empowered even as labour costs are cut. The key, as with life under lockdown, will be to reorganise the workplace in ways that harness the new technologies to improve productivity. This will have important consequences for pensions. Unless rising productivity spurs wage growth and retirement savings, we argue that the UK faces a real risk of pensioner poverty.
The virtual world of work
Augmented reality and virtual reality are among the innovations set to further shake up working practices. Still in its infancy, AR/VR has the potential to transform sectors such as entertainment, education and healthcare and to make working from home more effective – and pleasurable. But AR/VR demands high-speed, low-latency and reliable broadband. This means telecom operators and policymakers have tough decisions to make about the optimal mix of network infrastructure investment. On a related theme, we show how digitalisation will be central to the effective management of a green, decentralised energy system, which is needed if the UK is to meet its goal of net zero carbon emissions.
Articles on The future of work
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