In the News, Report

Covid, Work and Automation in UK – Industries with the highest level of furlough take-up are considerably more likely to be at risk

Covid-19 looks likely to create ‘a tsunami of job losses’. There are also signs the pandemic could rapidly accelerate the pace of technological change.

This report explores how these forces could interact to fundamentally reshape the labour market.

We set out a risk register that combines an analysis of the impacts of the pandemic on different sectors, with measures of automation risk and their growth or decline over the last decade.

Our aim is to help decision makers identify the jobs which are vulnerable or resilient to these two different forces. We make recommendations for what policy support is needed to make sure all workers can gain or retain access to good work, during the pandemic and beyond.

Table 1: Key arguments that the pandemic will accelerate the pace of technological change

Our findings are of course caveated by the fact that so much remains uncertain. Forecasting future job losses is difficult in this context because of the interplay between several uncertain factors, including those that relate to the ongoing public health situation. If a breakthrough in the search for an effective treatment or vaccine is just around the corner, then ‘the new normal’ might yet look surprisingly like the old. Our hope is that this risk register can help decision makers through these uncertain times by identifying what groups of workers are most vulnerable or resilient to these different forces. And thus, what policy support is needed to make sure all workers can gain or retain access to good work, during the pandemic and beyond.

When developing this risk register we compiled a range of indicators that are both timely and granular, to provide an overview of the labour market at a detailed industrial classification level:

• To measure coronavirus risk, we use HMRC data on furlough take-up, alongside RSA estimates of changes in economic output relative to their pre- pandemic level (February to July 2020).

• To measure automation risk, we use data from a 2019 Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysis, which builds on inputs from the seminal 2013 Oxford University study by Frey and Osborne.

• We also use RSA analysis of the Annual Population Survey (APS) to flag whether industries have experienced growth or decline over the last decade.

We find that industries with the highest level of furlough take-up are considerably more likely to be at risk of automation.

However, this relationship is far from straightforward.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Work and automation in the time of Covid-19 – RSA

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