Shaping our digital future

A TUC Discussion Paper
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
04 Sep 2017

Shaping our digital future is a discussion paper that looks at the potential impact of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ on the economy and work. Previous waves of technological change have not led to an overall loss of jobs, but have disrupted the types of job people do.

The paper proposes ways in which greater prosperity from technologies like digitisation, robotics and AI can be used to improve the pay and conditions of workers; and to train people for new work if their job is made obsolete.

Key recommendations to government

Use new technology to enhance productivity, jobs, and wages

  • Set a mission for the UK to be a top five digital economy by 2030
  • Establish a commission on the future of work, engaging unions, business and civil society in how technology should be introduced
  • Ensure that workers have a say in the introduction of technology at company and sector level, with new sectoral institutions to bring unions and business together.
  • Diversify the tech workforce, with a target to double the proportion of female STEM graduates in ten years.

Protect workers whose jobs are most at risk of change

  • Focus on older workers and set an ambition to increase investment in both workforce and out of work training to the EU average within the next five years.
  • Introduce a right to a mid-life career review, and face to face guidance on training.
  • Introduce a new life-long learning account, providing the opportunity for people to learn throughout their working lives.
  • Introduce a new targeted retraining programme aimed at those facing redundancy due to industrial change.

Share the rewards of increasing productivity

  • Promote collective bargaining to tackle wage inequality, including by giving unions the right to access workplaces to tell workers about the benefits of joining a union.
  • Prioritise supporting families, rather than cutting corporation tax.
  • Consider how the gains from increased productivity could be used to lower the state pension age.