Findings in a report conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) show that the nationwide rollout of Full Fibre broadband could bring up to a million people back into the UK workforce – helping get the economy back on track.
Previous Cebr research, commissioned by digital infrastructure Openreach, suggested that as many as 400,000 people could return to the workforce with Full Fibre available across the UK, but latest research suggests that more than double that number could actually benefit from the ultrafast broadband technology.
The combined effects of the pandemic and a nationwide rollout of Full Fibre could also see nearly two million more people working mainly at home – compared to 2019 numbers.
Before the pandemic, a gradual move towards home working was under way, supported by the UK’s improving digital infrastructure and slowly changing individual and corporate attitudes towards remote working.
But the pandemic has accelerated the need for improved options to work from home and a culture of remote and increasingly flexible working is becoming more established, which could have significant ramifications for the economy and wider society. Better connectivity and ultrafast broadband is the key to that flexibility.
“Cebr’s previous research explained the economic windfall in store for the UK with a nationwide upgrade – including a £59 billion boost to productivity,” explains Clive Selley, Openreach CEO. “And this updated report highlights how full fibre can help to level-up the UK, bringing up to one million people back into the workforce. With the challenges we face as a country, this an opportunity we can’t afford to ignore.”
Cebr updated its research conclusions based on evidence around expected future levels of home working. The spatial model now reflects the cultural change brought about by Covid-19, together with the technological impact of nationwide full fibre rollout.
Being able to work from home means major benefits for the environment as well. The Cebr research suggests improved connectivity could reduce CO2 emissions, emitted from car commuter trips, by an estimated 700,000 tonnes each year.
The pandemic has also highlighted the benefits of living outside of city centre locations and the Cebr model suggests 500,000 people could be supported to move from urban to more rural areas helping stimulate regional and rural economic growth.
The network could also unlock job opportunities for people otherwise left behind – such as carers, older people and parents looking to return to work. Half a million people could be brought back into the workforce through enhanced connectivity.
The report also showed how a nationwide ultrafast Full Fibre broadband network could boost UK productivity by up to £59 billion by 2025.
“Boosting Britain’s broadband networks is pivotal to our plans to build back better from the pandemic,” declared Matt Warman, Digital Infrastructure Minister. “That’s why we’re working hard to bust the barriers firms such as Openreach face when building their networks and investing £5 billion in Project Gigabit to ensure even hard-to-reach areas benefit from lightning-fast connectivity.”