The Future of Work Think Piece

Claire Denise Wallace, Jacqueline O'Reilly

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned Report

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The emerging body of reports and studies on the future of work reflect a growing public appetite to inform us about the likely consequences of work in the digital age. Employers, employees, policy makers and citizens are frequently presented with a range of analysis from business thinkers, consultants and academics from the UK and internationally. These include optimistic, pessimistic and sceptical interpretations based on disparate knowledge and interpretation of the consequences of changes to work and employment in the digital era.

However, the digital transformation of work has received limited attention in terms of ESRC funding. There has not been a significant ESRC investment in the broader topic of work since the 1990s programme on the Future of Work (Nolan and Wood 2003). To date valuable ESRC research investments have focused on particular aspects of work such as training, education and skills. The ESRC could play a strategic role in supporting research in this area, co-ordinating different methodological approaches and linking them to stakeholder networks and other research councils’ initiatives. Such an investment could provide a distinctive and substantial intellectual contribution to international debates; it could inform government policy around the Industrial Strategy; and it could also contribute to building research capacity and methodological skills for current and future generations of researchers seeking to examine the changing world of work and its consequences in the digital age.

The report draws upon a number of sources: an extensive review of current academic, policymakers and think tank research outputs; dialogue from two ESRC stakeholder workshops; consultations with a wide number of businesses, policymakers, stakeholders and academics in the UK, Germany and the US; a systematic review of current ESRC funding on the topic of work; and a short summary of EU research funding priorities. It provides an overview of the current landscape identifying five research themes that need addressing, outlining gaps in our existing knowledge. It concludes by making recommendations for future ESRC research investment, building international and local synergies, and capacity building to inform a research agenda on the future of work.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSwindon
PublisherEconomic and Social Research Council
Commissioning bodyEconomic and Social Research Council
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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