How the digital revolution changes our work life

8 Jun 2017 02:00h

Event report

The objective of the session  was to understand the scope and nature of the challenges posed by the digital revolution on employment, and to explore the role of the different stakeholder and models to address the issues. 

The session was initiated by the moderator, Ms Rinalia Abdul Rahim, Board of Directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), who shared an overview of the impact of technology on the world of work, and the current polarisation of jobs.

Mr Peter Eriksson, Swedish Minister for Housing and Digital Development, commented that while new technology and digitisation will lead to the loss of certain jobs, it will simultaneously create new jobs. Analysing the speed of change and changing the way we look at social security is important. Eriksson believes that basic income is not the right approach to addressing these issues, as it may exclude more people.

Mr Marco Pancini, Director of EU Public Policy, Google, emphasised the need to look at the benefits of the digital revolution and stressed the importance of knowledge and skills. He also shared Google’s initiative to equip small and medium business owners with digital skills.

Ms Karoli Hindriks, Jobbatical Small and Medium Enterprise, Estonia, spoke about the role that technologies play in providing mobility and opportunities for people to live and work anywhere.

Ms Ville-Veikko Pulkka, Doctoral researcher, Helsinki University, noted the need to assess the issue of unemployment due to technology, in both the short term and the medium term, as well as the necessity to provide more job opportunities for the unemployed.

Ms Annette Mühlberg, Head of e-government, ver.di, highlighted the challenges for workers today, including a greater workload, surveillance at the workplace, challenges of jurisdiction, new job models, and the loss of democratic procedures for freelancers (especially online).

Regarding which jobs will be in demand in the future, Hindriks commented on the difficulty of making such a prediction, especially since education is changing. It is important for people to adapt to new jobs. Eriksson pointed out the gap between skills and the types of jobs available, citing the example of Sweden, which has 60 000 job vacancies. Educating people for the available jobs is critical.

At the end of the session, Rahim posed the panellists several questions:

  • What is most important for skilling and making people employable? Pancini responded saying that it is important to ensure that those who are not online get the same opportunities offline, so that both can evolve. The individual rights of workers, both employed and self-employed, need to be respected and protected. Hindriks suggested that human mobility can help bridge the job gap, while Eriksson suggested a better social system to meet job needs, and that the adaptation of education and social security laws in work systems are important.
  • What needs to be adapted when it comes to social protection systems? Pulkka replied that there is a need to combine different labour markets and adopt either basic income or some other solution. Mühlberg shared the need to adopt a different approach based on the type of employment, clarity of the laws to be implemented, and their jurisdiction and online platforms contributing to social security funding.
  • Regarding how new social security systems need to be funded, Eriksson elaborated that job creation will increase the tax base, resulting in a better social system, and that along with that, a system needs to be developed to ensure that companies pay their taxes. Pancini added that there is a need to enlarge the basis of contribution. Mühlberg suggested that when organisations make a profit by rationalisation and use of technology, then a certain amount can be contributed to education for example. 

There were comments from the audience on the need for further research on the basic income model and its applicability in different states, including how technology can address this, as well as on the importance of developing new skills.

Rahim wrapped-up the session by pointing out that the discussion did not touch on the ageing population and the effect of climate change and migration.