A new Commission on Workers and Technology chaired by Yvette Cooper MP is launched today with the publication of new evidence on British workers’ hopes and fears for automation over the next decade.

The two year commission organised by the trade union Community and the Fabian Society will identify the immediate actions that government, employers and trade unions need to take to support workers as technology impacts on jobs during the next 10 years.

To coincide with the launch, the commission today publishes the findings of an in-depth survey of workers views and expectations about technology change at work. The online survey of over 1,000 workers in Great Britain found that:

  • Overwhelmingly, workers are positive about their own ability to navigate change: 73 per cent are confident they will be able to change and update their skills if new technology affects their job. After learning about how technological changes will affect the workplace, over half (53 per cent) are optimistic about their future working life and job prospects.
  • However, a significant minority are anxious about the impact of automation over the next 10 years: 37 per cent of workers (i.e. 10 million people) are worried their job will change for the worse; and 23 per cent of workers (i.e.6 millionpeople) are worried that their current job may no longer be needed.
  • Few workers think the government, employers or trade unions are taking action to support workers as technologies change: only 9 per cent of workers think that the UK government is taking steps to prepare them for new workplace technologies; only 16 per cent of employees with a trade union in their workplace think that their unions are taking steps to help ensure that new technologies improve their working life; and, only 27 per cent of employees think their employer is taking action to prepare them for changes.

This failure of leadership to prepare workers for changing jobs is why Community and the Fabian Society have established the Commission on Workers and Technology, which will be chaired by Yvette Cooper MP. It willdevelop solutions to ensure that automation is an opportunity and not a threat to workers. The commission will address: (1) how to ensure technology change leads to good jobs not bad ones; (2) how to support workers to adapt and re-skill; and (3) how government, employers and trade unions can work positively together on this agenda. The commissioners are drawn from organisations including: the TUC, Prospect union, Community, Sage, Google, Nesta and the University of Oxford.

Launching the commission and commenting on the poll findings, Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said:

The digital revolution means technology and jobs are changing faster than ever.

This survey of workers found that almost a quarter of workers are worried that their job will no longer be needed.

And whilst it found that most people are optimistic that they will be able to change and update their skills, they also say they are not getting any help or support to train or adapt from the government, their employer or a trade union.

It is vital that action is taken now to ensure changing technology doesnt widen inequality and to make sure all workers feel the benefits.

Technology can have great benefits as well as create new challenges. Almost half of those surveyed said they thought their job would improve with new technology, however nearly a quarter were worried that their job would go altogether. Its vital that action is taken now to make sure technology creates new better jobs and that all workers benefit from new technology. We have to make sure that automation and the digital revolution don’t widen inequality and that everyone gets the help and support they need to get on.

Iam delighted to be chairing the Commission on Workers and Technology and thank Community and the Fabian Society forinitiatingthis vital work. We need to ensure that automation is an opportunity and not a threat for British workers.

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, said:

These figures should serve as a wake-up call for all trade unions. The vast majority of workers in unionised workplaces do not believe we are supporting them to cope with technological change.

Automation cannot simply be opposed, rather it should be made to work in the interests of working people. Our members are already dealing with the consequences of automation being managed badly. Government and business need to step up too, but trade unions have a central role to play.

Our movement has been at the forefront of social change over the past century, but without urgent action we risk being left behind as the jobs of the next century are born. This commission is an ambitious piece of work that will take us out of our comfort zone and we are delighted that Yvette Cooper has agreed to lead this work over the coming months.

Find out more about the Commission here.