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IER Newsletter - February 2022

IER Newsletter - February 2022
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Commission on Social Security published its Plan

Since 2018 the Commission on Social SecurityLink opens in a new window has been working on a plan for a decent social security system in the UK. The Commission has adopted a consensus building and participatory model and its work was supported by four secretariat members, including IER's Michael OrtoLink opens in a new windownLink opens in a new window.
The Commission has recently published its PLink opens in a new windowlanLink opens in a new window, calling for a number of major changes, for example, replacing Universal Credit with a ‘Guaranteed Decent Income’ for all and the introduction of a new disability benefit. The Plan is available in a written and an audio version and it is accompanied by a Project ReportLink opens in a new window and a Technical NoteLink opens in a new window, that contain further details and the statistical modelling of the impact of the Commission’s proposals.

Update on ReWAGE, the Renewal of Work think-tank

Work is gathering pace for ReWAGELink opens in a new window, the Renewing Work Advisory Group of Experts think-tank, co-chaired by Warwick and Leeds universities.
Funding has been secured from the University of Warwick Policy Support Fund to support two new projects.

One is a report on the quality of UK labour market data in relation to good jobs, which will be delivered by a sub-group led by Professor Peter Elias CBELink opens in a new window. The other is a project with the English Mayoral Combined Authorities focused on policy and on implementing an evaluation of the good/fair work charters, which will be led by Peter DickinsonLink opens in a new window.

There are now nine active sub-groups working on papers for publication – some due in the next few weeks. The Levelling Up and Flexible Working sub-groups have already delivered their outputs but are ready to reform should there be further need for their expertise.

Word is also getting out about ReWAGE - its co-Chairs, Professor Chris WarhurstLink opens in a new window and Professor Irena GrugulisLink opens in a new window, took the opportunity to talk about ReWAGE at a meeting of the Business in a Pandemic World All-Party Parliamentary GgroupLink opens in a new window (APPG) and have been invited to sit on its newly-expanded steering group. They have also been asked to speak at the September meeting of the Women and Work APPGLink opens in a new window.

ReWAGE’s co-Chairs were part of an expert panel at a recent CIPD Applied Research ConferenceLink opens in a new window, and on 15 February Professor Warhurst spoke at the Preparatory Meeting of the 30th OSCE Economic and Environmental ForumLink opens in a new window. Professor Grugulis spoke about ReWAGE at a Chief Economic Development Officers Society eventLink opens in a new window, and also presented to the Liverpool City Region APPGLink opens in a new window on 25 February.

Seminar: Graduate careers and Covid-19

The CREW Research NetworkLink opens in a new window and the Productivity and the Futures of Work GRPLink opens in a new window at the University of Warwick are organising a seminar entitled Graduate Careers and Covid-19: winners and losers Link opens in a new windowon 10th March. The event will take place at the University of Warwick Library and online.
Researchers at the IER have been tracking a large sample of graduates from their application for a place in Higher Education in 2005/6, through graduation in 2009/10 and into their subsequent careers. Most recently they were contacted in 2020-21 as they were experiencing the impact of Covid. What do the accounts of their experiences reveal about the effect of higher education on their capacity to survive the social and economic impacts of the pandemic? What might this tell us about the future of work for highly qualified workers?

We will cover differences in graduate career progress and the impact of Covid-19 according to degree subject studied, occupation and sector of employment. The experiences of this sample, as in the workforce more widely, reveals a persistent and increasing gender pay gap, despite equal opportunities legislation and organisational policies – and the wide range of their earnings gives some indication of where and why this gap is most persistent. Working from home was empowering for some, and highly stressful for others. What are the changed patterns of working that developed because of Covid restrictions, how likely are these to persist and who will benefit.

Digit Debates: Is AI taking our jobs? Lessons from a survey of UK business leaders

The question of whether artificial intelligence (AI) is set to replace human workers in the near future has received considerable attention in recent years. As well it might. This eventLink opens in a new window on 16th March with Wil HuntLink opens in a new window, Sudipa SarkarLink opens in a new window and Chris WarhurstLink opens in a new window aims to contributes to debates around AI.

Developments in digitalisation, big data, computational power and machine learning mean that computers using AI can perform an increasing range of tasks previously thought to be the exclusive domain of humans. Up to now, research has attempted to answer this question in one of two ways, by either:
  1. predicting the occupations and jobs at risk of automation based on assessment of the capabilities of AI and related technology, or
  2. measuring the firm-level effects on jobs of recent investments in automation technology more broadly.
This debate aims to contribute to these debates by reporting on findings from a survey of business leaders looking at recent investments in new technology and specifically AI. The findings suggest that while the introduction of AI-enabled technology is more likely than other new technology to be associated with job destruction, job creation is just as likely to be reported. We will discuss the limitations and potential value of this methodology and suggest future directions for research on the topic.

Professor Chris Warhurst on BBC Radio 4

Chris WarhurstLink opens in a new window talked about the social construction of skilled and unskilled work on BBC Radio 4's Thinking AllowedLink opens in a new window programme with presenter Laurie Taylor and fellow guest, Natasha Iskander of New York University. Chris argues that 'skilled and unskilled work are not objective categories, rather, skill has a complex history, one which has favoured male workers.

Natasha Iskander's study of migrant workers in Qatar’s construction industry in the lead-up to the 2022 World Cup, demonstrates that the distinction between the “skilled” and “unskilled” is used to limit freedom and personhood.

Warhurst, C., Tilly, C. and Gatta, M. (2017) 'A New Social Construction of Skill' in Buchanan, J., Finegold, D., Mayhew, K. and Warhurst, C. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Skills and Training. Oxford University Press.

New projects

Green jobs in Scotland? Workforce and demand researchLink opens in a new window. Skills Development Scotland.

Find more information on IER's current projectsLink opens in a new window.