Tony Blair Institute warns white-collar work could be shipped abroad
15th June 2021

Working from home ‘could cost 6m jobs’: Tony Blair Institute warns that white-collar work could be shipped overseas

  • Well-paid professions vulnerable to being shifted overseas, according to report 
  • It said 5.9million jobs could be lost offshore if working from home continues
  • The major report was published by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

Almost six million white-collar jobs are at risk of being shipped abroad if the work-from-home revolution continues, a major report warned last night.

It said the ‘mass experiment’ with remote working during the pandemic has ‘begun to loosen the binds’ that previously tied working roles to specific places.

As a result, well-paid professions are vulnerable to being shifted overseas – including the jobs of graphic designers, accountants and software experts. 

The report, by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, warned that if ministers do not take urgent action there will be consequences similar to those caused by the ‘loss of manufacturing jobs in the 1970s, but on an accelerated timeframe’.

 A report by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change has found 5.9million jobs – 18 per cent of the UK’s workforce – could be lost offshore if working from home continues. (Stock image)

According to the research, 5.9million jobs – 18 per cent of the UK’s workforce – could be lost offshore. 

The report said: ‘Having put in place the digital infrastructure to make remote working possible, businesses, especially larger ones, are likely to persist with it even after the pandemic in order to reduce overheads, boost productivity and recruit talent from a wider geography.

‘As a result, they may opt to employ only the core staff required for in-person collaboration and decision-making while outsourcing and offshoring those who are not.’

The warning came as Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove indicated that some workplaces could see a continued working-from-home pattern in future.

Asked whether Britain would ever return to pre-pandemic ‘normality’, he said: ‘I suspect it may be the case that we may see different workplaces allowing people to work from home at certain points as well as coming into the office.

‘I think there may be changes to the way that we live.’

In a foreword to his report, former Labour PM Mr Blair called on ministers to move quickly to secure jobs already in the UK and take advantage of the opportunity to draw new ones in. 

He wrote: ‘On the one hand, there is a risk that employers decide that ‘Anywhere Jobs’ can be done as easily by those working abroad.

‘On the other hand, if Britain takes the necessary measures of preparation to facilitate such working here, we could attract jobs from abroad.’

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove indicated that some workplaces could see a continued working-from-home pattern in future

Meanwhile, James Gorman, boss of Morgan Stanley investment bank, has warned staff that if they can eat out they can step out to work. 

He insisted: ‘If you can go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office. And we want you in the office.’ 

The comments will have repercussions in London where the bank employs 5,000 staff.

The City of London, which employs most of the UK’s finance workers, had been preparing to go back to the office on June 21 but after Boris Johnson’s delay to Freedom Day that date has been pushed back until July 19.

Top bank bosses have to work within Government guidelines but have increasingly run out of patience with employees working from home. 

The delay is a blow for the City of London’s struggling businesses – in particular bars and sandwich shops – which used to serve half a million commuters each day.

The numbers are now just a fraction of that and the transition to remote working has led some to question whether the City of London and the nearby Canary Wharf financial district have a future.

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