How will the digital revolution affect EU workers?

According to a recent survey by researchers at Oxford University, 30% of workers fear they could lose their jobs due to changes in technology. So, with this in mind, what will be the consequences of the digital revolution and how can workers be protected?

The biggest change in the labour market is the added pressure placed on workers. For example, many are now facing the prospect of adapting their current career path to be able to adjust to the ever-changing demands of the labour market. This can include “up-skilling” or retraining.

The biggest concern for many of those surveyed was a lack of social protection. At the moment, an increasing number of workers are on non-standard contracts and, in the current system, there is great work instability and the demand for ongoing training to deal with this is growing.

The reality is, the current social protection systems were designed to meet the needs of those in standard employment. They aren’t adapted to the realities of the current labour market. As a result of this, those on non-standard contracts can face gaps in their social protection.

When presenting the results of the survey, Gordon Clark, a senior consultant and Emeritus Professor at the University of Oxford said:  “The issue of automation really plays on people’s consciousness but it depends a great deal on the macroeconomics of the country.”

“There is a tremendous demand for retraining. In this sense, there is an acknowledgement that these are real issues. I do think it makes a difference whether a social security system is as flexible as labour is flexible.”

“It makes a lot of difference to help people think about their future prospects if they feel that the system follows them rather than them having to adapt to the system.”

A member of the Commission added that “if people feel well equipped and well prepared to take the risks that come with the labour market, they are also mobile. They are more willing to move between different jobs, to take an opportunity as self-employed…”

“We need to make our labour markets and our societies more resilient to shock at the macroeconomic level and social protection has a huge role to play there.”

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