To ensure effective provision of skills in the future, it is important to assess what the future labour market in the UK might look like. While quantitative projections are available, the future of the labour market is shaped by many factors, which are often characterised by great uncertainty. This can make planning effective policy intervention aimed at supporting skill development, for example through the right investments in education and training, challenging.

The objective of this study was to scan the horizon of the labour market over the next 15–20 years to identify the drivers and emerging trends, and to create 5 different scenarios of what the labour market could possibly look like in the future. The purpose of these scenarios is not to predict. Rather, it is to help decisionmakers envisage different possible futures and support them in assessing which policy levers might be useful under which circumstance. Accordingly, scenario building can be a useful policy planning tool.

In addition, this research critically assesses the role of quantitative techniques in labour market analysis such as 'Working Futures 2017–2027' by Wilson and others (2020a).

The methodology comprised: an evidence-review of 130 sources, focussed on 6 specific sectors (construction, wholesale and retail, higher education, transport and logistics, health and social care, energy); 23 expert interviewees; qualitative scenario development and a scenario workshop.

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.