To contribute expertise, literature or as an external reviewer, please contact Dr Lorna Christie.

The requirement for digital skills is becoming increasingly embedded in people’s everyday lives, including for communicating with others, accessing information and services and meeting workplace demands. They can range from basic skills, such as carrying out simple internet searches, to the more advanced skills required for specific types of work. Estimates suggest that in the next 10–20 years, 90% of jobs will require some sort of digital skills and the digital skills shortage could cost the UK economy up to £141 billion in GDP growth over the next 10 years.

For individuals, having a higher level of digital skills is correlated with benefits such as improved job prospects and earnings, with one estimate suggesting that those with workplace digital skills earn on average 29% more per year than those without. UK Government research has also shown that digitally-skilled workers have a 59% lower risk of losing their jobs to automation. In a recent survey, 9% of adults in the UK were found to be lacking basic digital skills and 52% did not have essential digital skills for work. There are a number of reasons why individuals may lack these skills, including a lack of access to digital devices or the internet. Outside of the workplace, individuals who lack digital skills risk missing out on a range of benefits, such as saving time and money through online shopping. Concerns about a lack of digital skills have been particularly acute during the COVID-19 pandemic as internet access has become increasingly important for accessing public services, health information and staying connected to family and friends. Certain groups, including the elderly and those with lower socio-economic status or disabilities, are more likely to lack digital skills. Stakeholders suggest initiatives by government, industry and changes to the education system are required to improve digital skills across the population and that the reskilling of adults is important, as well as the education of children.

This POSTnote will discuss the digital skills required for everyday life and employment, why parts of the population may lack these skills and which groups are most affected. It will consider the impact of the skills shortage on individuals and the economy as well as strategies to improve the population’s digital skills.

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