The economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was enormous. While life in the UK gradually began to return to normal, businesses and jobs were hit hard. The government implemented a number of measures to support workers, businesses and households, including the £2.50 per hour wage supplement, the Business Rate Relief and the Job Retention Scheme. Even people who weren’t directly involved in the work of keeping the country running have benefited from the schemes – like the author of this blog post.
The Great Reset
One of the most profound effects of the pandemic is how it changed the UK economy. As the government’s figures show, gross value added (GVA) – which includes trading, production and employment – was 19% lower in 2020 than in 2019. The government’s chief economist Anne Rosewell described GVA as a ‘key indicator’ of the country’s economic activity. She said: “It provides a good indicator of how the economy is performing, both in absolute terms and in comparison to pre-pandemic levels.
In the three months to March 2021, total employment was 7.8 million – a fall of 2.2 million compared to pre-pandemic levels. The government’s chief employment adviser Chris Cook said at the time the UK was facing a “new normal” and called for greater job matching to help people who were losing their jobs due to the pandemic to easily find work. This call was echoed by the labour market researcher David Blanchflower, who in April 2020 warned: “If we don’t do anything, we’ll have millions of people struggling for years to make ends meet.”
The government’s economic measures were necessary, but they came at a price. The £2.50 per hour wage top-up is currently paid for by businesses who employ over 20 staff, but these payments will be directly taken from business’ income in 2022 – a year when there is no guarantee of a job. In the meantime, the UK is set to miss out on the productivity gains from the digitalization of the economy.
The Rise of the Entrepreneurs
In the last 12 months, the number of people declaring entrepreneurship as their primary work pursuit rose by 69% to 664,000. According to government figures, around 200,000 individuals are now self-employed in the UK – an increase of 20% in the last year. The Office for National Statistics noted in its annual review of trading that whilst the number of unincorporated businesses had decreased since the mid-1990s, “the rate of decrease has slowed in recent years” and that the “number of sole traders in employment” increased from 503,000 in 2019 to 604,000 in 2020.
Fuelling this trend is the UK’s favourable business climate, which encourages entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. UK businesses can access a wide range of support and resources through the government-backed UK Business Bank. Since its launch in April 2020, the bank has provided over £400m in loans for businesses to keep them afloat during the pandemic. In June 2021, Business Minister Richard Harrington announced that the bank would begin accepting applications from businesses regardless of their size or location.
This wave of entrepreneurial activity is set to continue. Last month, the government introduced new flexible working legislation that allows employees to work remotely in certain circumstances. Industry experts have predicted that as a result of this and other government support, a ‘glorious era of self-employment’ is set to emerge.
Alongside these positive signs, the government must continue to implement safeguards to protect the public. Dr David Butler, the chief scientific advisor to the Department of Health and Social Care, said in April that whilst the UK was making “steady progress” in controlling the pandemic, there was still “much more we can do”. He said: “A number of challenges remain, not least of all how to bring our economy back to something closer to normal. Whilst there is every reason to be positive about the future, we must guard against complacency.”
Digitalization and the Impact on Jobs
Since the start of this year, demand for digital labor has soared. The volume of searches for ‘digital marketing assistant jobs’ increased by 125% in the last month alone. The demand is being driven by businesses and brands seeking to remain connected with customers during the pandemic, as well as marketers seeking to expand their reach and increase engagement with the right audience.
The increase in digital marketing jobs is one of several industries where demand has risen due to increased digitalization. Last month, searches for ‘cyber security jobs’ increased by 79%, whilst searches for ‘data scientist jobs’ increased by 60%. In the last year, Google searches related to machine learning and ‘artificial intelligence’ increased by 132%, whilst searches for ‘computer programmer jobs’ increased by 116%.
The growth in AI-related searches is being driven by businesses looking to implement this technology into their systems. According to a report by Deloitte, “the demand for machine learning (ML) specialists more than doubled in the first quarter of 2021” and is expected to continue rising.
Last year, the number of businesses using AI and ML technologies in some form rose from 29% to 32% – an increase of 4%. The increase in demand means that businesses need to look for ways to expand their existing staff or recruit new employees who are skilled in these emerging technologies.
What will the Future Of Work look Like?
The Future of Work will be characterized by increased job flexibility, as well as a more agile and autonomous work environment.
In addition to the rise in digital marketing jobs, other industries set to see growth in the future include:
- Healthcare (medical professions)
- Logistics and transportation
- Research and development
- Customer service and interaction (including call centers)
- Finance and accounting
- Legal and regulatory affairs
- Human resources
- Technology and internet
- Digital marketing and sales
- Food and beverage
These industries are all set to see a big shift in the way work is done, with increased automation and algorithmic decision-making. This change is going to have an effect on everyone in some way – whether they are directly involved in the work or not.
The Future of Work is an initiative that brings together businesses, policymakers and academics to explore the changes that automation and digitalization will bring about – as well as the effects these changes will have on individuals, families and society. The project was set up by leading universities including the Oxford University Graduate School of Management, Cambridge University’s Judge Business School and London Business School.
One of the most interesting aspects of the project is the work that has already started to map out the Future of Work – a future that is already emerging. In early 2021, Future of Work published the first of what will be a series of reports exploring how different industries are dealing with, and will continue to deal with, the effects of automation and digitalization. The reports were based on interviews with over 100 senior executives from a variety of industries – from media and entertainment to professional services, retail and manufacturing.
One of the main takeaways from these interviews is how different workers in different industries are responding to, and will continue to respond to, the effects of automation and digitalization. The study found six distinct employee engagement strategies that companies can adopt to make the most of their existing employees as well as attract and retain new talent.
How To Make Money Online In The UK
With the economy gradually starting to pick up, more and more people are turning to the internet to learn how to make money online in the UK. Some of the best-known ways to make money online include: