The report Shaping Our Digital Future explores how the next technological revolution will impact on jobs and wages. Previous waves of technological change have not led to an overall loss of jobs, but have disrupted the types of job people do. And with the most recent wave of industrial change, rewards from higher productivity have gone predominantly to business owners, rather than being shared across the workforce through better wages and working conditions.
For example, in 1950 almost one in three workers worked in manufacturing, while one in 12 worked in professional and technical services. By 2016 these shares had reversed. But the jobs lost in manufacturing were not replaced by jobs of similar or better quality in the communities affected. Wages in former industrial areas are still 10% below the national average.
The TUC says that the government, business and trade unions must work together to mitigate disruption to working people’s lives, and to maximise opportunities for working people to benefit. And with two-thirds of the 2030 workforce already in work today, efforts must focus on ensuring that existing workers are equipped to deal with the change.
Ideas from the report for how the benefits could be shared with workers include:
- The full report Shaping Our Digital Future can be found here: www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Shaping-our-digital-future.pdf
- Alongside the report, the TUC is publishing a companion paper, Universal basic income and the future of work. The paper was written for the TUC by the Fabian Society, and it examines the case for a Universal Basic Income, which some have argued is a potential response to automation making some jobs obsolete. However, the report concludes that there are as many potential problems from UBI as potential benefits, and that it is more important to focus on immediate policy responses to problems that are widespread in the workforce like job insecurity, income inequality, and low pay. The full report can be found here: www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/UBI.pdf
- The report notes that at present, the promised productivity gains from new technology have yet to appear. But analysis by PwC quoted in the report suggests that GDP could be 10% higher in 2030 as a consequence of productivity gains from AI. By contrast analysis by the OBR and DWP suggests that for each year that the state retirement age is raised, 0.3% GDP is saved in state pension expenditure, and 1% more GDP is generated from the additional labour. See page 9 of State Pension Age Review (DWP, July 2017): www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/630065/state-pension-age-review-final-report.pdf
- Proposals in the report include:
Using new technology to enhance productivity, jobs, and wages
Protecting workers whose jobs are most at risk of change
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