SP442      Half Unit
The Future of Work and Social Policy

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Thomas Biegert OLD.2.54


This course is available on the MSc in International Social and Public Policy, MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Development), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (LSE and Fudan), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Migration), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Non-Governmental Organisations) and MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Research). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

All Social Policy Courses are ‘Controlled Access’. Please see the link below for further details on the allocation process.


Course content

Work is the central mechanisms for the distribution of economic capital in most societies today. It also plays a crucial role in the distribution of non-material goods such as status. A range of social polices embed the world of work, e.g., by regulating access to it or securing individuals when they are out of work. Moreover, in many societies policies are financed through taxes on income from work. This course starts from the observation that the world of work and employment has seen important shifts over the past decades. Some detect a growing precarization of work in post-industrial societies. In many low- and middle-income countries informal work plays an essential role. Technological change has led to polarisation of the work force locally and globally. Projecting out technological change some fear that automation will lead to dramatic job-loss in the not so distant future. Most recently, the COVID19 pandemic led to dramatic reorganization of work routines. Against this backdrop, this course takes an internationally comparative perspective to engage with the questions of what role social policies have played to embed the world of work in the past and how they will have to adapt to face the challenges that are suggested to come.

The course is structured in three blocks:

First, the course will start by discussing how we define work (e.g. by asking about the difference between paid and unpaid work and gendered consequences of the distinction), then assessing the central role work plays in contemporary societies in low, middle, and high income countries, and by analysing how social policies embed work in different ways across contexts.

Second, the course will investigate the social implications of recent changes in the world of work, such as precarization, informality, digitalization and technological change, and then cover different perspectives on how we might expect the world of work to change in the mid and long run.

In the third and most substantial block the course will then discuss potential strategies for social policies to deal with the challenges of recent and future developments. The course will consider different proposals that range from “fixing things so that the can stay as they are" to more transformative and utopian ones.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the WT.

All teaching will be in accordance with the LSE Academic Code (https://info.lse.ac.uk/current-students/lse-academic-code) which specifies a "minimum of two hours taught contact time per week when the course is running in the Autumn Term (AT) and/or Winter Term (WT)". Social Policy courses are predominantly taught through a combination of in-person Lectures and In person classes/seminars. Further information will be provided by the Course Convenor in the first lecture of the course. The course will be taught in the WT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 case study in the WT.

Indicative reading

  • Autor, D.H., Mindell, D.A. and E.B. Reynolds (2021): The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Task Force on the Work of the Future, issuing body.
  • Benanav, A. (2020): Automation and the Future of Work. London: Verso.
  • Bosch, M. and Manacorda, M. (2012): Social Policies and Labor Market Outcomes in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Review of the Existing Evidence. LSE: CES Occasional Paper 32.
  • Eichhorst, W. (2017): Labor Market Institutions and the Future of Work: Good Jobs for All? IZA Policy Paper No. 122.
  • Frey, C.B. and Osborne, M.A. (2013): The future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to
  • computerisation? Oxford Martin School Working Paper. Oxford: Oxford Martin School, University
  • of Oxford
  • Graeber, D. (2013): On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: A Work Rant. Strike Magazine 3: 1-5.
  • Grint, K. & Nixon, D. (2015): The Sociology of Work. Oxford: Polity. (4th edition)
  • ILO (2022): Present and Future of Work in the Least Developed Countries. Geneva: International Labour Organization.
  • OECD (2019): The Future of Work. OECD Employment Outlook 2019. Paris: OECD.


Essay (100%, 3500 words) in the ST.

A summative essay in form of a policy proposal written from the stance of a researcher for an indpendent policy organisation  of maximum 3500 words will inform 100% of the final mark. 

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication