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On 12 October 2017, the House of Lords is due to debate a motion, moved by Lord Knight of Weymouth (Labour), that “this House takes note of the effect of globalisation, technology and demographic change on the future of work, and of the public policy response to those changes”. This short briefing provides an overview of globalisation, technology and demography and some of the ways in which they affect work and employment in the UK. It then summarises some relevant public policy proposals and suggests material for further reading.

Globalisation

A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines globalisation as “the economic integration of different countries through growing freedom of movement across national boundaries of goods, services, capital and people”. Globalisation has coincided with a decrease in extreme global poverty and a decrease in inequality between countries. However, globalisation has also coincided with an increase in inequality within countries according to some measures, and can have both positive and negative effects on the labour market in developed economies.

Technology

There are a wide variety of ways in which technological changes have affected work in the UK, and how they may do so in the future. The need for increased digital skills, the development of online ‘gig economy’ platforms and the use of artificial intelligence are some of the changes which are impacting the UK’s labour market.

Demography

In 2016 the UK’s population was 65.6 million. People aged 65 and over made up 18 percent of the population, an increase of 2.1 percent since 2006. According to the ONS, the increase in the proportion of people over the age of 65 is due to changes in mortality, fertility, health provisions and lifestyles. The Resolution Foundation has highlighted the fact that a decades-long increase in the ratio of workers to non-workers, resulting from the relative size of the generation born between 1945 and 1965, has started to be reversed as this generation enters retirement.


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