Digit researchers’ report for the European Parliament argues for a new ‘Digital Social Contract’

8 March 2021

Digit researchers have produced a report for the European Parliament’s Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) that argues for a new ‘Digital Social Contract’ to address the rapid technological progress underway in modern capitalist economies.   

The study, Digital Automation and the Future of Work’, was written by David Spencer, Matt Cole, Simon JoyceXanthe Whittaker and Digit Co-Director, Mark Stuart.  It was produced at the request of the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA), managed by the Scientific Foresight Unit, within the Directorate-General for Parliamentary Research Services (EPRS) of the Secretariat of the European Parliament.  

The report has now been published on the Parliament’s website and aims to inform the Panel’s discussions about future policies. 

The report reviews relevant literature to establish the nature, scope and possible effects of digital automation.  It identifies both threats to job quality and an unequal distribution of the risks and benefits associated with digital automation. 

Professor David Spencer said:  

Developments in digital technologies, inclusive of artificial intelligence (AI), are predicted by some at least to create the potential for a great reduction in the volume of work. Others see scope for digital technologies to transform the quality of work. 

In this new report, we explore how digital automation might transform work  for good as well as ill – and emphasise how digital technologies need to be harnessed for the collective good. 

We identify several policy options, from work time reduction and to reforms in workplace governance. These options reflect a broader commitment to create a digital future that works for all, 

The policy options set out in the report include industry and sectoral skills alliances that focus on facilitating transitions for workers in ‘at risk’ jobs and re-skilling for workers in transformed jobsThey also encompass policies to reduce work time (including an EU right to disconnect), enhancements in worker representation, a new directive for the regulation of technology at work, and a mission-directed industrial policy. The suggested policies derive from the view that digital automation must be managed on the basis of core principles of industrial democracy and social partnership.  

The full report can be downloaded from the European Parliament website.   

Read the STOA Options Brief, based on the policy recommendations in the report.   

Read a blog discussing the report findings on the European Parliamentary Research Service Blog.    


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