Future of Work to hold talks on the lasting effects of COVID-19

Future of Work Commission to hold emergency COVID-19 crisis session amid calls for working life to change for good.

The Future of Work Commission is to reconvene in emergency session to investigate how society can seize the once in a century opportunity to change work and the lives of working people for good.

Commissioners include the Nobel prize-winning economist, Sir Chris Pissarides, the epidemiologist Sir Michael Marmot, the engineer and technologist Naomi Climer, and philosopher Professor Michael Sandel. It will explore how people’s working lives are undergoing unprecedented change.

New questions and existing challenges have been brought into sharp relief by the response to coronavirus and the digital and technological revolution. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on systemic issues, reframed the conversation about work, and revealed new questions for business, unions, policy-makers and legislators as the government wrestles with the challenge of lifting the lockdown, nurturing a recovery and building resilience for the future.

Unheard voices

The original Commission for the Future of Work was set up by the former deputy leader for the Labour Party, Tom Watson three years ago. It reported in December 2017 and led to the establishment of the independent charity the Institute for the Future of Work chaired by the Nobel laureate and economist, Sir Chris Pissarides and the former President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Naomi Climer.

A series of Spotlight reports from the Institute for the Future of Work has revealed the uncertainty, inequality, and anxiety experienced by people in different sectors during the lockdown. The reports reveal the unheard voices of working people.

This real-world evidence is supported by polling. Almost nine out of 10 Britons believe that in a year’s time the economy will have changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Ipsos MORI’s research, carried out online in early May with 1,077 British adults aged 18-75, found three-quarters expect the way we live our lives to change – one in four said a great deal.

New agenda

The Future of Work Commission will meet in virtual session on 28 May 2020. It will report by the end of June.

Former Labour Party deputy leader, Tom Watson, said: “We have a once-in-lifetime opportunity to change work and the lives of working people for good. I am delighted that the Future of Work Commission, which I established in 2016, is responding quickly when the country needs it most. I am pleased to hand over the reins to the independent Institute for the Future of Work, which is perfectly placed to advise the government and others to achieve this essential mission by reshaping work of the future. I wish the Commission well in their endeavours.”


Health inequalities

Sir Michael Marmot, Director, UCL Institute of Health Equity and author of the Marmot Review 10 years on said: “Widening health inequalities are being exposed through the pandemic and there is a pressing need to examine social and economic determinants of this, especially the nature and quality of people’s work. The pandemic has also revealed the importance to society of front-line workers whose work had been under-appreciated and under-paid. We must connect the health and work debates and plan for better future work now.”

Anna Thomas, the director of the Institute for the Future of Work, which has convened the Commission, said: “The pandemic is driving unprecedented change to people’s working lives, our ways of working, and our appreciation of who is doing good work. Each week, people gather outside of their houses to honour key workers – NHS staff, carers, teachers, street cleaners – the pandemic has made everyone consider how we value work and workers.

“People acknowledge we are going through a period of great change. How we respond to the turmoil at a personal, business and societal level will shape our nation for many years to come. It’s essential we consider what we want the future to look like as we navigate the turbulent waters ahead.”

Rebuilding the economy

Sir Chris Pissarides, the Regius Professor of Economics at the LSE and chair of the Institute for the Future of Work said: “Rebuilding the economy must serve the interests of society and people. Good quality work, which promotes health and well-being, should be prioritised in the plan for recovery, which is urgently required.

“The Government should develop a forward-looking, cross-department strategy with business and unions and others to shape a future that integrates planning for good work with the promotion of health, welfare support, education and opportunity for workers in transition. This strategic investment will benefit individuals, businesses and communities.”

Questions to be considered by the Commission will include:

1. What are the new or accelerated labour market trends shaping the future of work?

2. What are the barriers to a better future of work, and how can they be overcome?

3. How can we establish a partnership approach to solving these challenges and rebuilding a better future of work?

This one-off meeting has been put together for three reasons:

(i) Insight: to identify key challenges,
(ii) Model: a forward-looking, collaborative, cross-disciplinary forum dedicated to the future of work; and,
(iii) Advocacy: to highlight and prioritise our mission to shape a better future of work, beyond the crisis management that we’re seeing every day.

The membership of the Commission includes:

• Sir Chris Pissarides, Nobel laureate, emeritus professor of economics, LSE
• Naomi Climer, technologist and engineer
• Sir Michael Marmot, Director, UCL Institute of Health Equity
• Helen Mountfield, QC (former Chair of Commission with Tom Watson) Principal of Mansfield College Oxford
• Daniel Susskind, economist, Balliol College, University of Oxford
• John Evans, Former OECD Trades Union Advisory Committee
• Dr Anne Marie Imafidon MBE Founder, Stemettes
• Lord Jim Knight, TES Global, Chief Education Officer
• Prof Michael Sandel, Professor of Government Theory, Harvard University Law School, BBC’s Public Philosopher
• Dr Nadia Danhash, CEO, RCA Innovate
• Kate Bell Head of Rights and Economics at the TUC
• Matthew Percival, Director of People and Skills at the CBI (TBC)
• Lord Hodgson, Conservative peer and Chair of the IFOW Founder Circle.


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