New report on the future of work attracts attention of UK parliamentarians

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A new online report exploring the impact of the pandemic, an ageing workforce and new technology on work, and setting out evidence-led policy recommendations from University of Manchester researchers on the best way ahead has been positively received by MPs.

Published by the University’s policy engagement unit, Policy@Manchester, Working Futures is a collection of seven articles spanning a broad range of interrelated subject areas including equality at work, the need for greater support for those in frontline services, extending working lives for older employees and the implications of the digital revolution.

In her foreword, Naomi Clayton, Deputy Director at the Learning and Work Institute, highlights growing inequalities in the UK labour market alongside limited progression from low pay.

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She writes: “Policymakers should also explore how innovation and technological developments can be shaped, in part through regulation, to ensure as many workers benefit as possible.”

Working Futures from Policy@Manchester. Photo: The University of ManchesterWorking Futures from Policy@Manchester. Photo: The University of Manchester
Working Futures from Policy@Manchester. Photo: The University of Manchester

Ms Clayton adds: “The contributions in this Policy@Manchester publication consider the policy implications of a range of these issues. The articles consider the impact of changes in the labour market from a range of different perspectives – and, crucially, present evidence-led ideas about how we might address challenges and tackle inequalities.”

Stephen McPartland, the Conservative MP for Stevenage and a member of the All- Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Future of Work, welcomed the new report as an important contribution to building a deeper understanding of the challenges that are already shaping working life for millions across the country.

“Every single one of us is currently living through some of the most profound, rapid, and far-reaching changes in human history,” he commented. “Nowhere is that more apparent than in the nation’s workplaces. The new Working Futures report produced by University of Manchester researchers contains a wealth of robust, evidence-based research that can shape policy responses and help us prepare for a very different future.”

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After reading the report, Kirsten Oswald, the Scottish National Party MP for East Renfrewshire and another member of the Future of Work APPG, expressed concerns that ongoing changes to the world of work could exacerbate inequalities that already exist.

Stephen McPartland MP Stephen McPartland MP
Stephen McPartland MP

She continued: “Technology, AI, and changes in what consumers and society demand, coupled with the impact of COVID-19 on how we work, mean continued change is inevitable. If we don’t want to risk increased polarisation and an explosion in low-wage high-turnover jobs, we need to act to secure the future of work in a way that will benefit society.”

Ms Oswald, her party’s spokesperson on Equalities and Women, also called for action from Ministers to hardwire equality into a rapidly changing workplace environment.

“Wellbeing, fair work, flexibility, and the smart use of technology and AI across all job sectors are the way forward,” she said. “That will require determined action from the government, and a willingness to let go of outmoded ideas about what work will look like.” She added: “Positive change is not inevitable, but taking the steps to deliver structures to support a better working future will pay dividends across society.”

Working Futures is available to read on the Policy@Manchester website.

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