Nobel Laureate Sir Christopher Pissarides has formally launched the three-year research project bearing his name that is focused on the future of work and wellbeing, examining the impacts of technological disruption on people and communities across the UK.
First announced in June 2021, the project is considering how issues of inequalities, health and location can be affected by automation in particular.
Led by the Institute for the Future of Work with support from Imperial College London and Warwick Business School, the project is being funded at a cost of £1.8 million by the Nuffield Foundation, a charitable trust seeking to advance educational opportunity and social wellbeing.
Sir Christopher, who is co-chairing the project, is professor of economics and political science and Regius Professor of economics at the London School of Economics. He was the joint winner of a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2010 for his work on the economic theory of ‘search frictions', a framework he expects to build on with this project – with frictions defined as ‘obstacles to workers as they adjust from old work to new’.
The five trends being examined by the researchers are as follows:
- Technological progress is not leading to improvements in job quality;
- Adoption of automation is not uniform across space and skills;
- Labour market inequalities are growing;
- Work is key to health outcomes; and
- There is an increased importance of location, both of work and residence.
One particular output will be a "national disruption index" to map and track technological disruption across the UK. The researchers posit that "place increasingly defines our experience of work’, but that ‘the UK is known for stubborn geographical inequalities, and there are marked spatial differences in labour markets across the UK".
The Pissarides Review will ‘investigate the nature and trajectory of automation technologies’, and consider their uneven adoption across the country. Intriguingly, the research team said that “there appears to be less ‘trickle down' of the benefits and opportunities of technology then in past industrial revolutions. While the more highly skilled may find their roles enhanced, low skilled workers become particularly vulnerably to automation”.
Higher levels of knowledge-sharing, collaboration and stakeholder buy-in “tend to lead to better outcomes for people and firms”, the researchers said.
A key focus of the project is on ‘reframing' what automation means, with technologies now impacting on the management and organisation of jobs and business models.
“This is important because it captures access to different types of work, changes to its content as it is ongoing, and has an impact on working conditions and quality," the researchers said. "These transformations are likely to be more profound. and have a bigger social impact on many people. than the mere substitution of human work by machines.”
Yesterday's presentation was a summary of the work set to be undertaken over the next three years, with the project concluding in June 2024.