Lack of basic digital skills is costing UK workers £5.69 billion in additional earnings

New research from Cebr (Centre for Economics & Business Research), commissioned by Virgin Media O2, shows that a lack basic digital skills could be exacerbating the problems being faced by people amid the cost-of-living crisis.

People across the UK are facing ongoing economic hardship amid the cost-of-living crisis. Rising bills paired with an uncertain jobs market is creating significant barriers to many. New research from Cebr (Centre for Economics & Business Research), commissioned by Virgin Media O2, shows that a lack of the very basic digital skills could be exacerbating the problems being faced by people already struggling to make ends meet in an increasingly digital workplace and digital society. 

Some of the key findings show that: 

A lack of digital skills are costing UK workers £5.69 billion in addition earning and the economy £12.8 billion in GVA (Gross Value Add)

21% of UK workers say they need digital skills so they can get a job with a higher salary because of the cost-of-living crisis

More than a third of Brits (34%) feel a lack of digital skills training has held back their earning potential already

The research also shows that 31% of Brits believe they have been passed over for a promotion or pay rise because of a lack of basic digital skills such as how to turn on a computer or send an email. A  quarter of people in the lowest earning pay bracket (less than £12,570 p/a) feel their digital skills aren’t strong enough to secure them a similarly paid role if they were made redundant, while a fifth say they need digital skills so they can get a job with a higher salary because of the cost-of-living crisis.

The research also reveals the impact a lack of basic digital skills can have on people’s well-being as two thirds of Brits say their lack of digital skills is contributing to their stress and anxiety. For many, the internet is an essential lifeline that connects them to online health services, support services and much more. It’s not surprising then that having low level digital skills makes it harder to access this support as 44% of people say a lack of digital skills is adversely affecting their ability to look after their mental health and personal wellbeing. 

It’s concerning to read that more than a third of UK workers feel their limited digital skills are holding back their earning potential. With many people experiencing strains on their finances, having the right digital skills to find new employment opportunities and manage money is absolutely essential.

This is supported by FutureDotNow’s Hidden Middle report that 36% of the British workforce are lacking the essential digital skills for life and for work.

With 2 million households struggling to afford internet access in the UK today – and 10 million adults lacking the most basic digital skills, we need to build a movement for digital inclusion that leaves no-one behind. That’s why, with Virgin Media O2, we created the National Databank. The databank gives out free mobile data to registered local community organisations with direct reach to people in need.

As the cost of living crisis worsens, this has never been more vital. Many households will be looking to cut costs this winter, and whilst energy bills, housing and food prices are the biggest strains on people’s finances, people still need internet access. If people are forced offline during this difficult time, they can’t access health appointments, Universal Credit, and online banking. 

If you want to help you can do three things:

  • If you support people who might be struggling to afford their internet bills (or you know an organisation which fits the bill), register to join the National Databank. With your support, we can make sure that people aren’t forced to sacrifice their internet connection this winter.  
  • If you’re a large organisation we can take your old technology off your hands and donate the devices to people who are left behind, through the National Device Bank.
  • If your employees are falling behind on their beginner digital skills, introduce them to Learn My Way that has free online courses to help people learn the basics.

In today’s economic climate it’s an urgent priority to make sure everyone has the basic digital skills they need to succeed. By working together we can make sure the £12.8 billion benefit to the GVA is not left untapped. Get in touch if you can help. 

Helen Milner

Helen Milner OBE

Group Chief Executive

Helen Milner OBE is the Group Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation. Founded as a staff-led mutual charity in the UK in 2011, Helen led the establishment of a subsidiary charity, opening an office in Sydney in August 2017, and running the Be Connected Network for the Australian Government.

Helen has over 30 years experience of working in and leading organisations creating and delivering education over and about the internet. She was awarded an OBE for services to digital inclusion in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. In 2017, she won the title of Digital Leader of the Year (UK) and was named by Computer Weekly as the 14th most influential person in UK IT in 2020. Working with British Parliament, Helen was a member of the Speaker's Commission for Digital Democracy and an Advisor on Digital Engagement to the Public Accounts Committee. She is a Board Member of FutureDotNow, a member of the Minister’s Digital Skills Partnership Board, and is on the Adult Advisory Group for MaPS (the UK’s Money and Pension Service).