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 since 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?

Methods

The research comprised of:

  • In-depth interviews with providers of employment services and developers of digital tools.
  • Surveys of providers in both countries.

Key Findings

  • The 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; and new requirements of contracts.
  • The 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.
  • The 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.

Research outputs

Varieties of digitalisation? A comparison of employment services digitalisation in the UK and Australia
Jo Ingold, Chris Forde and David Robertshaw (2024), Australian Journal of Social Science

Researchers

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

Co-investigator: Professor Jo Ingold (Peter Faber Business School, Australian Catholic University)