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New job creation in the UK: Which regions will benefit most from the digital revolution

Over the last hundred years, technological change has fundamentally transformed labour markets in most industrial nations. In recent decades, the arrival of new digital technologies has displaced a wide range of routine work, including the jobs of bookkeepers, assembly workers, cashiers and telephone operators. At the same time, the appearance of more than 1,500 new occupational titles in official classifications since the computer revolution of the 1980s, suggests that a host of new occupations have emerged.4 In the United States, around 4.4% of total employment in 2000 was in types of jobs that did not exist in 1990.5 Many new occupations are directly related to the arrival of the personal computer (PC) in the 1980s and the subsequent internet (or ‘digital’) revolution that has rolled out since the early 1990s. As computer technologies disrupt the world of work, making some occupations redundant in the process, the key challenge for governments is to help support the shift of workers into new and emerging employment opportunities. A concern is therefore that the companies leading the digital age have created relatively few new jobs compared to the giants of the early computer revolution: while IBM and Dell still employed around 430,000 and around 110,000 workers respectively in 2013, Facebook’s global headcount reached only 7,185 in that year. We turn next to examining the broader implications of this trend for the UK economy.