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16 January 2019
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Low-skilled workers need retraining © iStock

13 December 2017 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal

Mass unemployment owing to technological advances is “highly unlikely”, according to a report by the Future of Work commission.


The report states that “there is no substantive evidence that Britain is heading towards widespread technological unemployment” and “a more nuanced debate about the impact and potential of automation that recognises that technological change is already having social and economic effects” is needed.


The main problem faced is “not the number or availability of jobs but their productivity and quality”, states the report, concluding that the focus had to be on “how best to increase levels of human and capital investment, spread the benefits of technological innovation, and create good work”.


However, it does note that without policy intervention, the power of the high-skilled over the low-skilled would increase. Technological change is “likely to both raise the productivity of high-skill workers and increase competition for low-skill jobs which are not susceptible to automation”.


The report states that low-skilled workers, who make up 45 per cent of the labour market, are particularly vulnerable and without intervention are “at risk of a severe and sustained decline in their wages”.


These workers need a new education and skills system that focuses on lifelong learning and offers extensive opportunities to retrain.


Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party and MP for West Bromwich East, started the commission, which is co-chaired by Helen Mountfield QC, a lawyer and mediator specialising in the field of public and employment law. Other commissioners include Naomi Climer (president of the Institute of Engineering and Technology), Prof Michael Sandel (Harvard University) and Prof Michael Osborne (Dyson Associate Professor in Machine Learning, Oxford University).


The full report can be found here.