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The prospects for skills and employment in an age of digital disruption: A cautionary note

Almost in a blink of the eye the policy focus on the ‘knowledge’ economy, with mass ranks of high skilled workers, has given way to claims of widespread ‘technological unemployment’. This Working Paper will examine competing claims on the relationship between automation, skills and the future of work. It examines the research evidence on the scale of job losses anticipated as a consequence of digital disruption. It presents three scenarios of the impact of digital disruption on future skill requirements, before considering how evidence on automation and digital disruption is used to influence and inform UK government policy interventions on skills, employment and labour markets. In conclusion, we recommend caution in interpreting existing evidence. While high profile reports on digital disruption make for eye-catching headlines, they make for poor policy formulation. A key message is that technology is not destiny. It is human decisions that will determine the future of work.