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A ground-breaking report on the future of work published by the U.K. Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) highlights the dramatic changes that the U.K.’s workers and most likely those in many other countries can expect to see in the next two decades.

4G workplace

click image to enlarge (opens in new window)

The report analyses the trends and disruptions shaping the U.K.’s labour market. It finds that multi-generational working—so called four-generation or “4G” workplaces—will become increasingly common as people delay retiring until their 70s or even 80s.

As The Future of Work: Jobs and Skills in 2030 report illustrates, “Some of your colleagues are old enough to be your great-grandparents, your office is entirely on-line, and your competitors are algorithms. Welcome to the future of work in the U.K.”

It also predicts that the role of women in the workplace will strengthen, and that an increasing divide between those at the top and bottom of the career ladder will mean that while highly skilled, highly paid professionals will push for a better work-life balance, other people will experience increasing job and income insecurity.

Technology will continue to evolve, pervading work environments everywhere, with many routine tasks becoming the domain of the smart algorithm, according to the report. Multimedia “virtual” work presences will become the norm. As businesses seek additional flexibility, they will decrease the size of their core workforces, instead relying on networks of project-based workers.

While the report makes grim reading for some, there is also good news. The demand for increasingly personalized custom goods and services will lead to a boom in “micropreneurism”, helped by new information and communications technology (ICT) developments that provide greater access to markets, innovation and cost savings.

Large firms will open up their business models, focusing more on the skills and knowledge they can connect to than the skills and knowledge they own. Large companies will increasingly run open research and development (R&D) programs, giving individuals and small businesses the opportunity to innovate.

click image to enlarge (opens in a new window)

click image to enlarge (opens in a new window)

As well as outlining the way employment might develop over the next two decades, the report also projects four possible scenarios for the U.K.’s economy, and the potential impact on work. These are:

  • Forced flexibility (business as usual): Greater business flexibility and innovation in many U.K. sectors lead to a modest recovery of the U.K.’s economy, while a sharp rise in flexible working changes the way many do their daily duties.
  • The Great Divide: Robust growth occurs, driven by strong high-tech industries—particularly in life and material science industries, but a two-tier society has arisen, with a divide between the haves and have-nots.
  • Skills Activism: Innovation in technology drives the automation of professional work, prompting an extensive government-led skills program to retrain those whose jobs are at risk.
  • Innovation Adaptation: In a stagnant economy, productivity is improved through a systematic implementation of ICT solutions.

Download the full report (pdf).

Download the key findings (pdf).

Download the slide pack (pdf).

Download the full trends and disruption report (pdf).

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