Rishi Sunak's 'Plan for Jobs' speech - some digital gaps

08 July 2020

I just listened to Rishi Sunak’s announcement about the first steps towards restarting the economy and getting people back to work. I can’t comment on the economics of it (beyond the size of the numbers), but I think there are a few digital policy gaps that will need filling:

  • To close the policy feedback loop, the government will need much better data about what types of jobs are being created and where. It can get some of this from job adverts, but that’s not enough on its own. It also needs to look at data from RTI and Universal Credit claims, and low friction ways for companies to report new jobs directly.
  • Hiring more work coaches is a good thing, but they will need better situational awareness of the local job market. This means revisiting the tools that DWP provides to work coaches so the investment becomes an increase in support rather than an increase in compliance monitoring. (Work coaches also need to be empowered to help solve problems for people beyond the organisational boundaries of DWP — anything that might help people get back to work).
  • There are some big ethical questions about how the welfare system is used to encourage people back into work in the age of COVID. Getting those wrong will undermine the argument that the government is doing what is right. One way to navigate that is with better data about what DWP requires of claimants via their Universal Credit accounts, and if it actually results in better outcomes.
  • Not all jobs are equally free of risk. However, because there is no standard way for employers to publish their COVID Secure risk assessments, data about how safe particular workplaces are is hard to come by. And risk assessments are not the only data gap. Encouraging people back into work will be easier if the safeguards in place are clear.