Human Capital: Disruption, Opportunity and Resilience in London’s workforce


Caroline Artis. London Senior Partner, EY London

London is one of the world’s most attractive, dynamic and powerful cities, with an incredible mix of commerce, culture and people. With an economy generating around £400 billion every year in economic activity, it has rightly established itself as a leading global city in a league of its own.

But whilst London has proved astonishingly resilient over recent decades, as it has adapted to deindustrialisation, the transformation of financial and business services, cultural resurgence and the growth of the global city economy, we cannot ignore that the world is changing.

We are living in an era that combines unprecedented change with limitless opportunity. The nature of work is evolving fast, new generations are now dominating the workforce and we are being forced to be more innovative, more agile, more collaborative and more everything.

This report considers some of the factors that are likely to disrupt London’s economy and its 5.8 million workers over the coming decades. It explores how three ‘disruptive’ factors – automation, migration and low pay – act as potential challenges and disruptors to London’s economy and labour market.

Adapting to these challenges requires changes to current ways of working for people, businesses and government. It recognises that many employers are already seeking to adapt to the changing paradigms of work, but the disruption of business models is hardly new.

What is considered new ground is how technological change is creating new enterprise and employment opportunities. London’s well-qualified workforce, its areas of economic specialism and its global character should enable the city to take advantage of these opportunities.

The second part of this report looks at London’s resilience and capacity to make the most of these opportunities. A new focus on cognitive skills, but also creative problem solving and social skills, will be required to enable Londoners to benefit from the advantages offered by disruptive developments.

It also considers the implications for policy and regulation, particularly in the context of a post-Brexit immigration strategy, which will be critical in helping London to attract and retain the skills necessary to capitalise on the opportunities unlocked by technological change.

This report undertakes a fresh approach to the possibilities and opportunities to arise from this decade of disruption, along with data analysis to support the evidence that will ensure London remains resilient and prosperous in the decades to come.