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Digitalisation of the Workplace

Digitalisation of the Workplace

15th February 2018

Most people with an active interest in the future of the labour market will agree that digitalisation of the workplace is here to stay. It is no longer a prospect of things to come, but a reality of life for many, particularly in the all-important service industry, which contributes around 80% to British GDP. Companies like Uber demonstrate the paradigm shifting impact digitalisation can have on the way we do things.

Some regard the emergence of a digitalised economy as the final nail in the coffin of collective labour action and regulated work in general, others are keen to stress the economic growth opportunities exemplified by innovative tech start-ups and more established players like Uber. Yet, viewing the digitalisation of the workplace in such binary terms would lead to a rudimentary understanding of the process and its outcomes. For consumers, digitalisation currently leads to a shift from a focus on ownership to an emphasis on ‘use value’. Current schemes of car, house and tool sharing are examples of change driven by this economic model.

Given the inevitability of the digitalisation of work, why should we discuss it? Recent research indicates that labour markets in developed countries will not be affected uniformly and to the same extent. A comparative study conducted on behalf of the ETUI suggests that in Britain comparatively few jobs are at risk while innovation hubs like London place the country in an advantageous position to gain from digitalisation. 

Event discussion topics:

- Does the digital economy destroy more jobs than it creates?

- What does digitalisation mean for the way we work? Will everyone be self-employed in a new ‘precariat class’ of workers with no employment rights? Will digitalisation lead to employment more in accordance with employee’s wishes? 

- How can a digitalised economy be regulated effectively in the future? Traditional patterns of employment protection, health and safety regimes and social regulations become increasingly difficult to enforce in an ultra-flexible labour market

- Which skills do workers need to compete in the digitalised workplace?

- What will the interaction of employee and algorithm look like in the workplace? Will they harmoniously collaborate or will work patterns for low skilled or unskilled workers be increasingly dictated by algorithms?

Houses of Parliament
United Kingdom