Internationally, the digitalisation of job-seeking and unemployment support services is rapidly increasing.

This Round 1 Innovation Fund project explored how the UK and Australia are embracing digital employment service delivery. In both countries (especially in the post-pandemic context), digital tools play an increasingly significant role in the delivery of employment support, or ‘activation’. The UK has a ‘digital by default’ benefits system and digital employment services are central to the New Employment Services Model in Australia from July 2022.

Research questions

  1. How is digitalisation transforming the design and delivery of employment services in the UK and Australia?
  2. How is digitalisation implicated in different aspects of employment services delivery?
  3. How is digitalisation approached by different employment services actors?


The research comprised (i) in-depth interviews with providers of employment services and developers of digital tools and (ii) surveys of providers in both countries.

Key Findings

Our survey indicated that digitalisation within the sector had been primarily driven by three things:

  • COVID-19
  • a desire to develop existing models of service delivery
  • new requirements of contracts.

Our interviews in the UK found digitalisation to be relatively under-developed within the sector, with many research participants attributing this to the functioning of the contracted-out employment services quasi-market, providers’ exposure to risk within this, and data protection concerns.

Our Australian interviewees were, on the other hand, concerned about the rapid pace of change and a range of risks associated with this. In both case studies, participants believed that digital tools had the potential to enhance provision and improve customer choice. The majority however believed that technology could and should only augment provision, and that it would remain a person-centred industry.

The project produced a number of lessons for policymakers and practitioners in relation to the risks associated with the pace of change, barriers to the adoption of digital tools, and their strengths and limitations within what continues to be a human-centred sector.


Principal Investigator: Dr David Robertshaw (Leeds University Business School)

Co-investigator: Dr Jo Ingold (Deakin Business School)