Policy Department for Economic, Scientific and Quality of Life Policies, on behalf of
the European Parliament's Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), has
presented its overview of
current research into the impact of digitisation on the workplace.
It was mainly analyses of broad data sets as well as relevant case studies that
were taken into consideration. The presentation dealt with developments in the
field of platform working and the effects of modern information and
communication technologies on mental and physical health.
Changes in the working world caused by new technologies
growth and use of digital technologies has gained significant momentum as a
result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only has remote, teleworking or platform
working increased significantly but digital business models and processes are
also moulding regular working environments far more today than ever before. The
share of teleworking within the EU has remained constant at 18 per cent over the last
two years. If the fact that not every sector and activity is suitable for this
is taken into consideration, it is estimated that this share could still increase
to up to 37 per cent of the workforce within the EU. According to current findings the so-called "digital divide"
did not widen during the pandemic.
Quo Vadis, Platform work?
working has also expanded in all industries that are known to use it as a
result of the pandemic. This includes delivery, transport and driving services
as well as non-location based working such as translating written texts,
analysing data sets or even business processes that can be outsourced. This has
made a new type of global labour division possible; where job and task
controlling is usually carried out "remotely". The problem here is
that a large part of these activities take place below the radar of the
national statistical offices. This means that there is a lack of reliable data
for assessing the extent and impact of these new digital job and labour
markets. In the conclusion reached by the overview study, studying the
"algorithmic management" topic is especially recommended to
legislators at both European and national levels as well as to employee
report also addresses the health consequences of working in the digital world.
The results are ambivalent: For example, modern machines can help to relieve the strain
in physically demanding jobs. At the same time they can also lead to higher job
insecurity and fear of job losses or economic deterioration. However this fear
seems to exist mainly "in the head", as the actual effects on the
labour market or a decline in employment in occupations with physical workloads
have still to be seen. With regard to psychosomatic symptoms, the increased use
of information and communication technologies can lead to a reduction in prevalent back pain, while headaches occur more frequently.
Counteracting the threat of inequality
though concerns about job and employment losses due to automation have not been
confirmed in the past, current developments in the artificial intelligence sector
are now causing these fears to flare up again. These fears may not be entirely
unfounded for people with low qualifications as digitisation in the workplace
has a different impact on workers with different qualification levels: To date
it has been seen that higher investment in digitisation in companies is
accompanied by an increase in the employment of highly qualified staff on the
one hand, but the employment of low- and medium-qualified routine workers has
decreased on the other. Specific target-group training programmes could be a
possible way of counteracting these inequalities.